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Cornell University 

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The conscientious man, who knows to what straits 
even the British Museum is put, by the influx of 
unnecessary books, will not lightly write, still less 
publish, a new work. The Author of the present 
volume seeks an excuse in the comparative novelty 
of his subject, and in the ready access he has enjoyed 
to the sources of Frankish history, many of which 
have only been cleared and rendered available during 
the last few years by able editors and commentators 
in Germany. 

The following pages are the result of studies, the 
chief object of which was to gain an insight into the 
age of Charlemagne. They are offered to the public 
in the hope that they may throw some little light 
on one of the darkest but not least important ages 
of the world, when, in the early dawn of modern 
history, rude hands sowed the seeds of Christian 


The Author is well aware that he has chosen a 
subject which has not been found generally in- 
teresting, — which is looked on as the property of 
the troubadour or the fabling monk, rather than 
of genuine history. But he thinks it a legitimate 
object of ambition to alter or modify these views. 
If the glory of Athens gives a charm to the account 
of Dorian migrations, and lights up even the distant 
flitting shades of Pelasgi and Curetes, — if the gor- 
geous spectacle of Augustan Rome leads us to watch 
with interest the feuds and fortunes of the citizens 
of a poor and small Italian town, — there is no reason 
why we should remain indifferent to the primordia 
of the mighty race whose annals are the history of 
modern and Christian Europe — to the origin of the 
wonderful political and social world in which it is 
our lot to live. 

Should the present volume meet with any decree 
of public favour, the Author hopes to bring forward 
another, on the life and times of Charlemagne, to 
which this work, though complete in itself, mio-ht 
form a kind of introduction. 

For the many defects which will be found in his 
book, and of which he is himself fully conscious the 
Author begs the indulgence of his friends, on the 
ground that he has performed it in the intervals 
of a laborious and anxious occupation. 


In conclusion, the Author cannot omit thus 
publicly to express his grateful thanks to Professor 
Ritschl, and the other librarians of the University 
of Bonn, for the courtesy and kindness with which 
they placed their valuable library at his disposal. 

Bonn, May, 1857. 











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The Ancient Germans - - - - 1 


From the First Appearance of the Franks to the Death of 
Clovis (a.d. 240— 511) - - - - - 39 


From the Death of Clovis to the Death of Clotaire I., sole 
Monarch of the Franks (a.d. 511— 561) - - 98 


From the Death of Clotaire I., sole Monarch of the Franks, 
to the Death of Brunhilda (a.d. 561—613) - - 128 


From the Death of Brunhilda to the Death of Carl Martel 
(a.d. 613—741) - - 196 


Carloman and Pepin the Short (a.d. 741-768) - - 286 




Political Institutions, Laws, Customs, &c. - - 343 


State of Gaul at the Time of the Frankish Conquest- 368 


Period of Transition from Merovingian to Carlovingian 
Institutions -._--- 386 


Salic Law - - - 419 


The Church - 448 


p. 121. lines 3. and 4 from bottom, for " the Frankish kingdom attained ," read 
the Kingdom ot the Merovingians nearly reached " 

224 ' U ^?- fi ;° m k? ttom > fur " Another son of Childeric " read » Another son 



If the Greeks and Romans are rightly called the 
people of the past, the Germans, in the wider sense 
of the appellation, have an undoubted claim to be 
considered the people of the present and the future. 
To whatever part we turn our eyes of the course 
which this favoured race has run, whether under 
the name of Teuton, German, Frank, Saxon, Dane, 
Norman, Englishman, or North American, we find 
it full of interest and glory. Majestic in stature, 
high in spirit, with fearless hearts, on which no 
shackle had been laid, they came forth from their 
primeval forests to wrestle with the masters of the 
world. They dared to meet the Romans when they 
were mightiest * ; when their armies, schooled in a 

1 Tae. Annal. ii. 88. : " Et qui (sc. Arminius) non primordia 
Populi Romani sicut alii Reges Ducesque, sed florentissimum im- 
perium lacessierit ; praeliis ambiguus, bello non victus." 


2 THE FRANKS. [CiiAr. I. 

thousand battles with the bravest foes, were led by 
" Danger's own twin brother," whose military genius 
laid the Roman Empire at his feet : and he himself 
has told us, that his tribunes and prefects wept 
with terror at the very aspect of their giant foes ; 
that throughout his ever victorious army the Ro- 
man soldiers, on the eve of their first conflict with 
the forces of Ariovistus, were engaged in making 
their wills in the recesses of their tents. 1 This mere 
horde of undisciplined barbarians, with naked bodies, 
and swords so badly tempered that they bent at 
every stroke, — with no fortifications but their wag- 
gons, and no reserve but their wives and children 2 , 
— rushed fearlessly on the finest armies that the an- 
cient world produced, and came off with honour, and 
sometimes with success, according to the testimony 
of their not over-truthful enemies. 3 Triumphed over 

1 Ccbs. B. G. i. 39. ; "Hi neque vultum fingere, neque interdum 
lacrinias tenere poterant Vulgo totis castris testa- 
men ta obsignabantur." 

2 Flori Epit. Iter. Roman, iii. 3.: "Nee minor cum ux- 
oribus eoruni pugna quam cum ipsis fuit ; cum objectis unclique 
plaustris atque carpentis, altae desuper, quasi e turribus, lanceis 
continue pugnarent." Florus, iv. 12.: "Quae fuerit caliidarium 
gentium feritas facile vel mulieres ostendere quce deficientibus 
telis infantes ipsos afflictos humo in ora militum adversa miserunt." 
Tac. Hist. iv. 18.: " Ilortamenta victorias, vel pulsis pudorem." 
Tac. Germ. viii. : "Memoriae proditur quasdam acies, inclinatas 
jam et labantes a feminis restitutas, constantia precum," et seq. 
Conf. Caes. B, G. i. 51. (Plutarch. Marius, 18, 19.) 

3 Suetonii Octav. c. 23. « Graves ignominias cladesque duas 
omnino nee alibi quam in Germania accepit Lollianam et 
Varianam." Tac. Annal. ii. 21. : « Nee minor Germanis animus, 


in the streets of Rome, they remained unconquered 
on the Rhine. 1 The tide of German life which set 
towards the East, was one of which no imperial com- 
mand from Rome could stay the impetuous course. 
When African, Parthian, Greek and Gaul had bent 
the neck and borne the chain, the Germans alone 
kept up a doubtful struggle 2 with the universal 
conquerors, and laughed at their pompous threats 
and empty triumphs. 3 

And if Rome maintained for a time a nominal 
empire over her barbarian foes, it was by that 

sed genere pugnse et arniorum superabantur." Caesar was not 
considered impartial even by Asinius Pollio. Vide Sueton. Julius 
CcBsar, c. 56. : " Quum Ccesar pleraque et qua? per alios erant gesta 
temere crediderit, et quae per se vel consulto vel etiam memoria 
lapsus perperam ediderit." Cicero, pro Lege Manil. : " Sinite hoc 
loco Quirites (sicut Poetas solent qui res Romanas scribunt) prce- 
terire me nostram calamitatem." 

1 Florus, iv. 12.: " Victi magis qnam domiti." Tac. Germ, 
xxxvii. : " Triumphati magis qunm victi " (i. e. by Caligula, 
Claudius, Vitellius and Domitian). Florus, iv. 12.. " Hac (Vari- 
ana) clade factum, ut imperium quod in litore Oceani non steterat 
in ripa Rheni fluminis staret.'' 

- Tac. Germ, xxxvii. . " Tamdiu Germania vincitur 

Non Samnis, non Poeni, non Hispanioe Galliasve ; ne Partlii quidem 
saepius admonuere : quippe regno Arsacis acrior est Germanorum 
libertas." Claudian. de IV. Cons. Honor. 455, 456. : 

"Nobilitant veteres Germanica fcedera Diusos; 
Marte sed ancipiti, sed multis cladibus emta." 

3 Tac. Germ, xxxvii. : " Mox in^entes C. Csesaris minas in lu- 
dibrium versae/' Conf. Suetonius, C Ca3s. Caligula, c. 43, 44. 
C. Plinii Secundi Panegyr. c. xvi. (Epist. Libri x. et Pan. ed. 
Gesner. Lips. 1805) : "Accipiet ergo aliquando Capitolium non 
mimicos currus, nee falsa? simulacra victoriae," et seq. 

b 2 

4 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

" counsel " (consilium) 1 which in others she called 
" perfidy ; " by cunningly dividing the strength she 
could not break ; by leading German mercenaries 
against German freemen. 2 It was to his German 
soldiers that the first Caasar owed the victory of 
Pharsalia; and the throne of his successors, for many 
generations, was propped by the Goth and Frank, 
who, when it fell, divided the accumulated spoils of an 
enslaved and plundered world. In somewhat more 
than three hundred years after the conquest of Gaul 
by the Franks, the power of the Roman Emperors of 
the West, and even the very titles of Caesar and 
Augustus, devolved upon a German head, and in the 
person of Charlemagne the Germans were recognised 
as the successors of the Italians in the Western Ro- 
man Empire. To the great Frankish heroes there- 
fore is attached an interest irrespective of their many 
great deeds and noble qualities. They illustrate 
to our minds the progress of a new and mighty 
race ; their reign is a bright page in its annals, to 
which many a brighter has succeeded, and will yet 

For many obvious reasons, and among others from 
the circumstance that the French preceded the Ger- 
mans in the field of literature, it has happened that 
the great leaders and monarchs of the Frankish nation 

1 Tac. Annul ii. 26. : "Plura consttio quam vi perfecisse "(i. e. 
Tiberium). Conf. i. 49, 50, 51. Cass. B. Gall, i v. 13, 14. Dio 

Cassius, lv. 6. 

2 Tac. Ann.\.2A.; "Additur magna pars prcetoriani equitis 
et robora Germanorum qui turn custodes Imperatori aderant." 


have been far more closely connected with modern 
France than is warranted by historical truth. It will 
be observed that in the following pages we everywhere 
speak of the Franks exclusively as Germans, as one 
of the many offshoots of the mighty Teutonic race, 
which for more than a thousand years has been 
steadily advancing towards universal dominion over 
the political, social and moral world. 

It has been said with some humour (perhaps the 
French have reason to say with ill humour), that of 
the two great French Emperors, who reigned at an 
interval of a thousand years, the one was a German 
and the other an Italian. The latter part of this 
assertion is true only in the least important sense, for, 
in all essential characteristics, Napoleon Bonaparte 
was pre-eminently French ; but we could only con- 
trovert the former by reviving a theory respecting 
the origin of the Frankish tribe, which is entirely 
destitute of historical or ethnographical foundation. 1 
Charlemagne was thoroughly German, in the mould 
of his body, in the cast of his mind, in his lan- 
guage, habits, tastes and sympathies ; and the fact 
of his having ruled over the Romanised Celts of 
Neustria, as well as over his own Austrasian coun- 

1 A few French writers have ascribed a Gallic origin to the 
Franks. Among these are Audigier and Pere Lacarry. Vide 
Bouquet, vol. ii. p. 25. of Preface, where we are informed that the 
Jesuit, de Tournemine, in his " Reflexions sur la dissertation de 
M. Liebnitz," maintains that the Franks were descended from the 
Volsci Tectosages, who, according to Caesar (B. G. vi. 24.), settled 
in Germany near the Hercynian forest. 

b 3 

6 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I* 

try men, can never justify us in regarding him as a 

It would be unsatisfactory to write, and less 
profitable to read, a history of the Frankish people 
without some account of the race to which they 

But little need be said of the physical characteristics 
of the ancient Germans : the immense size and rude 
beauty of their persons, — their fair complexions, 
fierce blue eyes l , and flaxen hair 2 , — their loud harsh 

1 Tac. Germ. c. iv. : " Truces et caerulei oculi, rutilae comae, 
magna corpora." Conf. xxx. and Tac. Agric. Vit. c. xi. Tac. 
Ann. ii. 21.: "Latos barbarorum artus." Tac. Hist. ii. 74. : 
" Truces corpore, horridi sermone." Diodorus, v. 31. (ed. Din- 
dorf. Paris, 184-2): Avrol 8' el<j\ t))v irp6(jo\\jiv KarairKriKTiKoX koX 
rate <pioi'(iig fiapviiyjuq kcu TravrEkoiQ rpayy(pu)i>oi. The flaming eyes 
of the ancient Germans are often referred to. Amtnian. Mar- 
cellin. (xvi. p. 87. Hamburg, 1609), where he describes the defeat 
of the Alemanni by Julian, says: "Eorumque ultra solitum 
sa3vientium comae fluentes horrebant, et elucebat quidam furor ex 

2 The rutilae comaf, of which Tacitus and other writers speak, 
seem to refer to the practice of dying the hair, in which they were 
imitated by the Roman ladies, and more particularly by that class 
among them which has in all ages been most solicitous about per- 
sonal appearance. Cr>nf. Caes. B. G. i. 39. " Summa diligentia 
capillos cinere rutilabant" (i. e. Romanas matrons). — Valerius 
Max. ii. 1. 5. Servius, in IV. Virgilii, 698., says : " Matronis 
nigram coraara meretricibus flavam probatam fuisse." Conf. 
Ovid ad Puellam, Am. i. 14. 45. Vide Suetonius, Caligula, 47.: 
"Coegitque non tantum rutilare et submittere comam sed et 
sermonem Germanicum addiscere.' 7 Conf. Seneca de Ira iii. 
26. : "Nee rufus crinis et coactus in nodum apud Germanos virum 
dedecet." Tertullian {de Cultu, ii. 6.) draws a frightful omen for 
the future fate of the Germans (or rather of their imitators), from 
their flaming hair!— "Video quasdam capillam croco ve'rtere - 


voices, calculated to strike terror into their foes, are 
celebrated by some of the greatest writers of antiquity, 
and we find most of these peculiarities in their de- 
scendants at the present day. 

The dressing of the hair was an object of great care 
and attention among all the German tribes, and the 
mode of wearing it was made in some instances the 
distinguishing mark of a particular class. Among 
the Suevi, the nobles and the freemen wore it long, 
and gathered it in a knot upon the top of the 
head ; the serfs of the same nation were denied this 
privilege. 1 " Their chiefs," says Tacitus, "have 
a more ornamental way of wearing the hair " 
than the simple freemen. It is probable that the 
same custom prevailed amongst the Franks, in 
whose laws, as well as in those of the Saxons, the 
hair was protected by a heavy fine. The long and 

pudet eas etiarn nationis suae, quod non Gerrnance aut Gallae sint 
procreatae ; ita patriam capillo transferunt. Male ac pessime sibi 
auspicantur flammeo capite?' Tac. Hist, iv. 61.: " Propexuni 
rutilatumque crinem." Tac. Germ. 31. Conf. Martialis, ap. Clu- 
ver. i. p. 131. : 

" Crinibus in nodum torti venere Sicarnbri." 

1 Tac. Germ. 38. : " Apud Suevos usque ad canitiem, horren- 
tem capilluru retro sequuntur, ac saspe in solo vertice religant. , ' 
The Greeks and Romans made an important ceremony of cut- 
ting the hair of young people for the first time. Nero is said to 
have offered the first-fruits of his head to Jupiter Capitolinus ; but 
it was more usual to dedicate them to -ZEsculapius, Hercules, and 
Apollo. Juvenal, Sat iii. 186.: " Ille metit barbam, crinem hie 
deponit amati." 

b 4 

8 THE FRANKS. [Chap. 1. 

flowing locks of the Merovingian Kings were 
the distinguishing mark of their royal race and 

dignity. 1 

The dress of the ancient Germans is described as 
having been particularly simple, nor had they the 
fondness for gaudy ornaments common to barbarous 
nations. The general characteristic of their costume 
was its being close and tight fitting, thus differing 
from the loose and flowing robes of the Sarmatian 
tribes. 2 " The dress of all," says Tacitus, " is a 
short cloak, which they fasten with a clasp, or, if that 
is wanting, with a thorn ; but they also pass whole 
days on the hearth and before the fire without any 
covering at all. The dress of the women is the same, 
except that they often wear linen garments with a 
purple border, but without sleeves, so as to leave the 
arms and even the upper part of the bosom exposed 

to view." 3 

As might be expected in the rude dwellers of 

a country " rough with forests and disfigured by 

marshes," their mode of life was simple in the 

1 Gregor. Turonen. vi. 24. (ap. Bouquet, torn, ii.), when 
speaking of Gundobald, son of Clotaire, King of the Franks, says : 
" Diligenti cura nutritus, ut regum istorum, mos est crinium 
flagellis per terga demissis." Prolog. Leg. Sal.. "Chlodoveus 
comatus et pulcher et inclytus." Lex Saxon, cap. vii. Vide 
Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterthiimer. 

2 Ccbs. B. G. vi. 21.: "Pellibus aut parvis rhenonum tegu- 
mentis utuntur magna corporis parte nuda." Tac. Germ. c. xvii. : 
" Locupletissimi veste distinguuntur non fluitante, sicut Sarmataa 
ac Parthi, sed stricta et singulos artus exprimente.' , 

3 Tac. Germ. c. xxvii. 


extreme. With "the world before them where to 
choose,'' and as yet in blissful ignorance of the rights 
and cares of property \ they threw up their rude huts 
of the roughest materials, wherever the fountain, the 
field, or the grove, attracted their attention and 
allured their choice. 2 Yet even here, as in almost all 
that they did, they were unconsciously faithful to the 
indelible instincts of their race. They lived apart, 
each man in his own fashion ; they built no cities, nor 
even connected houses, but — with as great a love of 
seclusion and independence as their descendants, the 
Westphalian boors, and the English country gentle- 
men — every man surrounded his house with as much 
open space as possible. Your true German 3 has 
never been a gregarious animal ; where association is 
necessary for the attainment of a worthy object, he 
will readily unite with others, whether, as in ancient 
times, to choose a leader or make a foray, or, as in the 
present day, to elect a Parliament or hunt a fox ; but 
he is most completely in his natural element, when, 
in the solitude of his fields, or in the privacy of his 
house, he sees about him none but the objects of his 
family affection, or the dependent instruments of his 
unbending will. 

1 Cces. JB. G. vi. 22. : " Neque quisquam agri modum certum 
aut fines habet proprios," 

2 Tac. Germ. xvi. : " Colunt discreti ac diversi ut fons,, ut 
campus, ut nenius placuit." 

3 We have used the word German in its widest sense, to 
denote the members of the great Teutonic race in all ages and 

10 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

Of the food of the ancient Germans, Tacitus has 
said but little, and there is but little to say. It con- 
sisted, like that of other barbarian nations, of wild 
fruits, freshly-slain game \ and cheese. Pliny men- 
dons butter also as a favourite luxury, used by the 
wealthy alone. 2 Temperance in drinking was not 
one of their virtues, and we need not be surprised 
that they had skill enough to make beer,— although it 
implies some slight attention to the much hated agri- 
culture,— for what will not Germans do in the service 
of the Cerevisian Bacchus? 3 Those who lived 
nearest to the Rhine, drank wine, which was of course 
imported, since we know that it was not intro- 
duced into Germany until a much later period. The 
meal was preceded by a bath, in which, notwith- 
standing the rigour of their climate, they seem 
to have taken great delight ; and every man had a 
separate seat and table to himself. 4 

A people so warlike, so independent of each other, 

1 Tac. Germ, xxiii. : " Agrestia poma recens fera'' (not high, as 
the Romans had begun to eat their game. Horat. Sat. ii. 8. 6.). 
Conf. Cres. B. G. vi. 22. 

2 Plin. Hist. Nat. torn. ii. lib. xxviii. cap. 35. (ed. Joh. Har- 
duin. in usum Delphin. Paris. 1741): "E lacte lit et butyrum 
barbararum gentium lautissimus cibus, et qui divites a plebe dis- 
cernat. Plurimum e bubulo et inde nomen, pinguissimum ex 

3 Tac. Germ, xxiii. : " Potui humor ex hordeo aut frumento." 
Conf. Plin. xxii. 82. : " Ex iisdem fiunt et potus." Meiners 
(Grundriss der Gesch. der Menschheit, p. 106.), says: "Even the 
most savage and stupid of nations have found the means of 
fuddling and stupifying themselves for a time.'' 

4 Tac. Germ. xxii. 


were little inclined to undergo the patient labours 
of the husbandman. It seemed to them slothful and 
cowardly to gain by the sweat of their brows what 
might more readily be acquired at the cost of blood. 1 
Even their rulers and magistrates, though they pro- 
vided that a sufficient quantity of corn should 
be raised by the common labour for the general use, 
seem rather to have discouraged the settled habits 
necessary for the successful tillage of the field ; lest, 
as Caesar conjectures, the people, enamoured of pro- 
perty and peace, should exchange the love and prac- 
tice of war for the quiet pursuits of agriculture. 
War was their chief delight, and, next to it, its 
mimicry, the chase. 2 When not engaged in these, 
the bravest warriors, leaving the meaner cares of daily 
life to their women and their slaves, abandoned them- 
selves to the sloth which vacuity of mind, the long sus- 
tained exertions of the hunting field, and the excesses 
of the precarious meal would naturally produce. 
These intervals of torpor were however, occasionally 
broken by drinking bouts of inordinate length, at 
which quarrels were frequent, and were carried on, as 
by their truest descendants, the English, with far more 
blows than words. 3 They also sought relief from the 

1 Cces.' Bell. " Agriculturae non student." Tac. 
Germ. xiv. : " Nee arare terrain aut expectare annum tarn fa- 
cile persuaseris, quamvocare Lostes etvulnera mereri; pigrumquin- 
immo et iners videtur, sudore adquirere quod possis sanguine 

2 Tac. Germ. xv. Hist. iv. 16. : " Germani lata bello gens." 
Ca?s. B. G. vi. 21. 

3 Tac. Germ. xxii. : " Crebrre ut inter vinolentos rixa% raro 

12 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

monotony of life in the still fiercer excitement 
of gambling; and often staked wife, and children, and 
liberty, dearer to them than either, upon a single 
throw. 1 

Such then were some of the characteristics as 
described to us by Caesar, Tacitus, and others, with 
wonderful unanimity, of the people destined by 
Providence to change the manners and remodel the 
institutions of Europe, and make their influence felt 
in every corner of the world. And if these were all, 
we might perhaps, like Adelung and Gibbon, regard 
our common ancestors as only an ordinary race of 
savages, and place them, not perhaps below, as the 
former of these writers has done, but on a level 
with, North American Indians. But there are 
other qualities which honourably distinguish them 
from all other barbarous nations that have appeared 
upon the great theatre of the world, since the 
Greeks and Romans played out the part assigned 

The bravery of the Germans is spoken of by an- 
cient writers with great admiration, and is ascribed by 
some to a lively faith in the immortality of the soul 2 ; 

conviciis, saspius crede et vulneribus transiguntur." This answers 

to the modern schoolboy's phrase, " Don't quarrel Fight." Tac. 

Annal. xi. 16. Italicus gained popularity among the Cherusci 
by his qualities as a hard drinker. 

1 Tac. Germ. xxiv. : " Aleam (quod mirere) sobrii inter seria 
exercent, tanta lucrandi perdendive temeritate ut cum omnia de- 
fecerunt extremo ac novissimo jactu de libertate et de corpore 

2 Diod. Sic. v. 28. : . . Trap' ovUv mdifievoi Tt]v rod filov ts\svtw>. 
'Evi<r X M 7«P ™p wale 6 UvBaySpov \6yot; 8rt rag ^u X « c rwi' 


but mere courage is common to almost all un- 
civilised nations, and often arises in savages from 
ignorance of the resources of a civilised enemjf. 
When unattended by some higher quality, it can do 
but little for its possessor, even in the field of battle. 
The Romans, however, found, to their cost, that the 
Germans did not long remain savages in their mode 
of warfare. 1 It is evident from the Commentaries of 
Csesar, that they were not destitute of military skill, 
and that he found in Ariovistus no contemptible 
opponent, even in point of generalship. 2 In the time 
of Tacitus they had learned and adopted such parts 
of the Roman tactics as were suited to their circum- 
stances. The Catti in particular are described as 
having introduced a thorough military discipline 
among their troops, — as not only appointing leaders, 
but obeying them, " and, what was very rare and 

dv&p&Trwv adavarovg ilvat av^i^rfKEy /ecu cV trwv wpiGixiruiV kICKlv 
fitovv eIq krepov crojfj.a rf]g \\/vyrig Ela6vofiEvr]g. Aio kat Kara rag 
TcupaQ tQ>v TtreXevrrfKOTwy eviovg EirtaroXag yEypcifjifiEvag rolg 
oliceloi£ teteXevty]k6(tiv EfihaWeiv eiq r>)v izvpkv ojg rdv teteXevty)- 
k6tii)v avayrii)uof.LEvu)i f ravrag. Seneca, de Ira, i. 11. : " Germanis 
quid est animosius? quid ad incursum acrius ? quid armor urn 
cupidius?" Tac. Germ. vi. : "Scutum reliquisse prsecipuum 

1 Tac. Germ. xxx. 

2 Ca?s. B. G. i. 40. 51. Conf. Cces.B. G. v. 42. (Ctesar speaks 
with admiration of the manner in which the Nervii fortified their 
camp after the Roman manner): " Vallo pedum xi et fossa pedum 
xv hiberna cingunt. Haec et superiorum annorum consuetudine 
a nostris cognoverant .... nam minus horis tribus millium 
decern in circuitu munitionem perfecerunt." Tac. Germ. xxx. : 
"Plusreponere in Duce quam in exercitu." 

14 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

peculiar to Roman discipline, as laying greater 
weight upon the general than upon the army." 

Still more remarkable, as among barbarians, was 
their chastity *; their respect for the female sex ; and 
that fidelity to one wife which is the foundation of 
all that is best in European civilisation. The ex- 
istence of this virtue among the Germans is too well 
attested by history to admit of any doubt. Yet the 

1 Tac. Germ, xviii. : " Severa illic matrimonia nee ullam 
partem morum partem magis laudaveris. Nam prope soli bar- 
barorum singulis uxoribus contend sunt? Ca?s. B. G. vi. 21. : 
" Qui diutissime impuberes permanserunt maximam inter suos 
ferunt laudem." Tac. Germ. xix. : " Paucissima in tam numerosa 
gente adulteria .... nemo illic vitia ridet." Conf. Bonifacii 
Epist. XIX. ad Ethelbald. Anglorum Regem. Tac. Germ. viii. : 
"Inessequinetiam (in feminis) sanctum aliquid et providumputant." 
Salvian. de Gubernatione Dei, vii. 222. (ed. Conrad. Rittershus. 
Altorf. 1620): " Plus adhuc dico, offenduntur Barbari ipsi im- 
puritatibus nostris. . . . Impudicitiam nos diligimus Gothi exse- 
crantur. Puritatem nos fugimus illi amant. Fornicatio apud 
illos crimen atque discrimen est, apud nos decus." Quinctilian, pro 
Milite Decl. iii. 16. (ed. Burman. Ludg. Batav. 17^0): "Nil tale 
(meretricium) novere Germani, et sanctius vivitur ad Oceanum." 
The captive wives of the Teutones begged Marius to give them 
to the vestal virgins, that they might preserve their chastity, and 
killed themselves in the night because their prayer was not 
granted. Valer. Max. Fact, et Diet. Memorab, lib. vi. c. 1. ext. 
sec. 3.: " Teutonorum vero conjnges Marium victorem orarunt 
ut ab eo virginibus Vestalibus dono mitterentur, adfirmantes 
ccque se atque illas virilis concubitus expertes futuras, eaque re 
non impetrata laqueis sibi nocte proxima spiritum eripuerunt. 
Dii melius, quod hunc animum viris earum in acie non de- 
derunt. Nam si mulierum suarum virtutem imitari voluissent, 
incerta Teutonics victoriae tropcea reddidissent." 


historian Gibbon, who had evidently no great admir- 
ation for the continence imputed to them, endeavours 
to explain the phenomenon in a manner which not 
only takes away a great portion of its merit, but 
makes chastity inseparable from a state of barbarism, 
— a position which cannot be maintained. " He- 
roines of such a cast," he says, — after speaking of 
the readiness of the " unpolished wives " of Germany 
to die for their husbands or the preservation of 
their own honour, — " may claim our admiration, but 
they were assuredly neither very lovely nor very 
susceptible of love." 1 Their chastity was rather, he 
appears to think, the result of want of attraction 
in the woman, than of modesty or virtue on either 
side ; and what he says further on the subject might 
almost be considered as a defence of the Germans 
from the imputation of being more chaste than any 
other race would have been under the same circum- 
stances. We, however, may be allowed to attribute 
their superior purity to the fact that these barba- 
rians respected their women, as the partners of their 
labours and their dangers 2 , and viewed them in 
a higher light than as the mere plaything of the 
passions. The high position accorded to the woman 
by the man, in the German races, has raised the love 
of the sexes from the indiscriminate sensuality of 
the Greeks and Romans to the chivalrous constancy 

1 Gibbon, Dec. and Fall, cli. ix. 

2 Tac, Germ, xviii.: "Laborum periculorumque sociam.'' 

16 THK FRANKS. [Ciiaf. I. 

of the middle ages, to which we owe the idea of 
home with all its noble and tender associations. 

Chastity in the women had its counterpart of 
honour in the men. The freeman has few tempta- 
tions to deceive, and the brave man scorns to humble 
himself before another by a lie. They kept their 
word, even when they had staked their liberty upon 
the cast of the die and lost. " This," says Tacitus, 
"is obstinate perseverance in an evil purpose ; they 
themselves call it honour" 1 The very fact of their 
giving it this name is a proof that they were acting 
on principle, and from noble motives. 

The existence of the high qualities here ascribed 
to the Germans has been recognised in every age. 
The poet Lucan calls liberty emphatically " a German 
blessing." 2 We owe, says M. Guizot, " to the Ger- 
mans, the energetic sentiment of individual liberty, 
of human individuality." 3 The spirit of the free- 

1 Tac. Germ. xxiv. : " Ea est in re prava pervicacia ; ipsi 
Jidem vocant" 

2 Lucan. Pharsalia, vii. 433. : 

" Libertas ultra Tigrim Phenumque recessit 
Ac toties nobis jugulo quoesita, negatur 
Germanuni Scytbicumque bonum." 

3 Guizot, Histoire de la Civilisat. (ed. Pichon et Didier. Paris 
1829), vol. i. pp. 287, 288.: " Ce que les Germains ont surtout 
apporte clans le monde romain, c'est Fesprit de liberie individuelle 

le besoin, la passion de l'independance, de l'individualite 

Les Germains nous ont donne l'esprit de liberte, de la liberie telle 
que nous la concevons et la connaissons aujourd'hui, comme le 
droit et le bien de chaque individu, maitre de lui-meme et de ses 
actions, et de son sort, tant qu'il ne nuit a aucune autre." 


dom which they have bequeathed to their descendants 
differs much in its nature from that of the ancient 
world. The liberty of the Greek and Roman was 
political ; its aim was to make itself felt in public ; 
while that of the German is to be individually undis- 
turbed from without. The latter rests on a broader 
and firmer foundation than the former ; it is not 
always crushed even by the fall of political freedom ; 
it has a temple in every heart, and a castle in every 
house ; and these must be separately overthrown 
before it can be utterly destroyed. 

It is evident, however, that where this sentiment 
of individual freedom predominates — where men do 
not move gregariously — political science, the object 
of which is to produce a well ordered and powerful 
state, becomes exceedingly complicated and difficult. 
In Sparta, and in a less degree in Athens and Rome, 
the citizen was content to be a slave, that his country 
might be free. The grand problem proposed to the 
Germans was to reconcile the greatest possible indi- 
vidual freedom with order, discipline and unity of 
action. When we come, in another part of this work, 
to consider the manner in which they endeavoured 
to solve this important question, we shall see reason 
to ascribe to the barbarians of the North a political 
insight and a practical wisdom which will in vain 
be sought for among the nations of antiquity. The 
people to whom a monarch of our own times a few 
years since emphatically ascribed "an hereditary 
wisdom without parallel," do, in fact, owe much of 
that wisdom to the traditions of their barbarian fore- 


18 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

fathers. "If," says Montesquieu, "you will read the 
admirable work of Tacitus on the manners of the 
Germans, you will see that it is from them that the 
English have derived the idea of their political go- 
vernment ; this beautiful system was invented in 
the forests.' 71 

There is scarcely a subject in the whole range of 
history of which it is more difficult to gain a clear 
and satisfactory view than the religion of the ancient 
Germans. When we look for information on this 
point, as we naturally do, to the accounts of the Roman 
historians, we find them not only meagre but im- 
probable, and singularly inconsistent with each other. 
We learn, too, to receive with the utmost caution all 
that the Romans say about the religion of other 
countries, from the perception of their strong tendency 
to identify the deities of the nations which they con- 
quered with the gods of Rome, and to furnish them 
with Latin names and rites, to fit them for their own 
Pantheon. From Caesar, in whom we should gladly 
place some confidence, — though we must not forget 
that he saw the Germans chiefly away from their own 
haunts, and in a state of war, — we have the remark- 
able assurance that they had no priests and offered 
no sacrifices. " They worshipped," he says, " only 
those of the Gods whose forms they could see, and 
whose beneficial influence they felt, as the sun, the 

1 Esprit des Lois, xi. 6. : " Si Ton veut lire l'admirable ouvrage 
de Tacite, sur les mceurs des Germains, on verra que c'est d'eux 
que les Anglois out tire l'idee de leur Gouvernement politique. 
Ce beau systeme a ete trouve dans les bois." 


moon, and the element of fire : of the rest they have 
never even heard." 1 

When we turn to Tacitus, who, as might be ex- 
pected from the subject of one of his works, speaks 
more at large, we are offended at the outset by find- 
ing our old acquaintances from Olympus brought 
forward as denizens of the primeval German forests; 
and are almost tempted to believe that the historian 
has been careless enough to mention the deities whom 
a few Latinised tribes of Germany had adopted from 
the Romans, as the original tutelary gods of the whole 
Teutonic race. 

Their chief god, he tells us, was Mercury, to whom 
they offered human sacrifices. They also worshipped 
Hercules and Mars, and sacrificed the customary 
animals to them. Some of the Suevi he represents 
as worshipping Isis, under the form of a light pin- 
nace, which denotes, he thinks, that this cultus was 
imported. 2 They sang, too, of Hercules, " the chief 
of all brave men, as they rushed into battle." 3 
He speaks of twin gods under the name of Alei, 
as being worshipped in a forest in the country of 
the Naharvali, and compares them to Castor and 
Pollux. 4 

How little weight is due to this decided mention of 
Roman gods, whom Tacitus would hardly recognise 
otherwise than in their statues, may be judged from 
the words which immediately follow in the ninth 

1 Cyes. Bell. Gall. vi. 21. 2 Tae. Germ. ix« 

3 Ibid. iii. i Ibid, xliii. 

c 2 

20 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

chapter, quoted above. " But they do not," he con- 
tinues, " think it consistent with the greatness of 
the gods to fashion them in the likeness of any 
human form." 

Thus far we learn little or nothing from Tacitus, 
who is least to be depended on where he speaks with 
the greatest decision and gives the names of gods. 
In other parts of his works, where he merely relates 
in general terms what he observed or heard, and 
finds no opportunity to indulge in the favourite 
assimilating process of the Romans, he is more in- 
structive, and more reconcileable with what we know 
from other sources. We are able, therefore, to intro- 
duce his other notices in their proper connection. 

What has been said of the vague and scanty nature 
of our knowledge of the subject before us may sur- 
prise those who are acquainted with the contents, or 
even with the existence, of the voluminous works of 
modern scholars on the subject of German mythology. 
Yet he will be more fortunate than the author of 
these pages, who (after studying the work of Jacob 
Grimm \ and watching the efforts of this great literary 
Demiurgus to bring order out of the chaos of popular 
traditions and poetic fictions — of wild and barbarous 
cosmogonies, and still wilder philosophical interpre- 
tations thereof — of intermingled shreds and fragments 
of creeds of different ages, localities, and tribes — and 
all the embodied fancies of the frenzied, dithyrambic 
imagination of the savage North) does not turn with 

1 Deutsche Mythologie. 


a feeling of relief to the few names and facts — few, 
but full of character and meaning — in which Roman 
history and German tradition coincide. 

The principal writers on this subject are at variance 
with each other, as to the existence or non-existence 
of a German Mythology in the narrower sense, as 
distinguished from the Scandinavian, and the legends 
of the Eddas and the Scalda. Koppen 1 says that of 
the German gods little remains but the names. And 
Simrock 2 , regarding the Scandinavians and Germans 
as members of the same familv, attributes to them 
essential identity of belief and worship. In his work, 
therefore, we are launched into the great sea of 
Scandinavian fable, with its Ymir, its Baldur, its 
Loki, and Audhumbla, the celestial cow. 

Jacob Grimm, on the other hand, attempts to con- 
struct a specifically German mythology, a task in 
which, though he displays his usual stupendous learn- 
ing and admirable ingenuity, he can scarcely be called 
successful, since he could do little more than arrange 
the crumbling fragments of a forgotten system on the 
Scandinavian model. 

We cannot in this place discuss the theories of 
these ingenious writers, whose works, moreover, are 
very widely known. It will suffice for our present 
purpose to give such a general account of German 
heathenism as we think consistent with history and 
tradition, and confirmed by strong traces in the 

1 Nordische Mythologie. 

2 Handbuch der Deutschen Mytholog. mit Einsehluss der 

c »? 

22 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

superstitions, songs, and legends, and even in the 
language itself, of all the Germanic peoples. 

The religion of the ancient Germans had its origin 
and its home in external nature. They raised their 
rude altars amid the awful gloom of primeval forests, 
on the summits of lofty hills, by the sides of rivers, 
and on the shores of secluded lakes. " They con- 
secrate woods and groves and ccdl by the names of 
gods that secret something which they see by rever- 
ence alone" 1 There is a simplicity and grandeur 
about their religious faith which well accords with 
their national character and with the rude free life 
thev led in the bosom of uncultivated nature. Their 
ideas of Deity may be wild and grotesque, like the 
sounds and shapes by which they were surrounded ; 
their rites may be barbarous and cruel, for a nation 
of warriors and huntsmen thought little of slaying 
or being slain ; but they are at all events free from 
the fetish littleness and meanness which often cha- 
racterise the religion of barbarians. 

There is evidence to show that they had some 
idea of one omnipotent, omniscient and presiding 
God (Allfadir), of whose worship the Semnones 2 , a 
tribe of the Suevi, claimed for their territory the 
honour of being the original seat. " All the tribes of 
the same race" (i.e. the Suevic), which, as Tacitus 
says, occupied the greater part of Germany, " meet to- 
gether at stated periods by deputations, in a forest 
hallowed by the auguries of successive generations, 

1 Tac. Germ. ix. 

- Between the Elbe and the Oder (Brandenburg). 


and by the awe-inspiring antiquity of the place. They 
commence their barbarous rites by the sacrifice of 

a human beino- No one dares to enter the 

sacred wood until he has been bound with a chain in 
token of humility, and of a deep sense of the presence 
and power of the god." If the worshipper thus en- 
cumbered " should happen to fall, it is not lawful for 
him to be lifted up or to rise, but he must roll out 
of the wood on the ground. This spot is regarded 
by all as the centre of their religion, and, as it were, 
the source of their nation, the dwelling-place of the 
supreme God, the ruler of all things, to whom all 
other deities are subject and subservient*" l 

Of the gods whose names have come down to us, 
and have left traces in our own as well as other 
German languages, the principal was Wuotan (Wodan, 
Odhinn), who sometimes appears as the Supreme Ruler 
of gods and men, and at others as only one of a tri- 
nity or larger co-fraternity. This was in all proba- 
bility the deity whom Tacitus calls Mercuriiis 2 , whom, 
he says " the Germans principally worship." 3 From 
Wuotan all blessings were supposed to flow ; but 
especially the chief of all blessings to a warlike people 
— victory over their enemies. 

With Wuotan the name of the goddess Freia is 
usually associated as his wife. 4 Freia also appears in 

1 Tac. Germ, xxxix. 

2 Paull. Diac. de Gest. Langobard. i. 9. : " Wodan sane, quern 
adjectalitera Godan dixerunt, ipse est, qui apud Romanos Mecurius 

3 Tac. Germ, ix 

1 Paull. Diac. de Gest. Langobard. i. s. 

24 TPIE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

the Edda in the character of the Teutonic Aphrodite, 
the goddess of love and spring. 

The next most prominent name is that of Donar 
(Thorr, Thor), the god of thunder, and of the weather 
in general ; and of the produce of the field in so far 
as it is affected by atmospheric influences. 

Zio (Tyr) appears to have been their more especial 
god of war (the Mars of Tacitus), who, as they be- 
lieved, was present at their battles and aided the 
efforts of his warriors. 1 

Of their goddesses, Tacitus mentions Nerthus (or, as 
some read, Hertha), " Mother Earth/' 2 who was wor- 
shipped in the country now called Mecklenburg and 
Pomerania, and whose usual abode was the Island of 
Riigen. 3 At certain times, probably once in the year, 
the goddess was borne in a chariot yoked with cows in 
solemn procession through the country. This conse- 
crated vehicle, which only one priest was allowed to 
approach, was usually concealed beneath a covering 
in the umbrageous recesses of the sacred grove, in 
which Nerthus herself resided. During her progress 
through the favoured land, a state of things like the 
medieval " truce of God " prevailed. Every day was 
a holiday, and every place which she approached 
became the festive scene of hospitality and joy. 
The pleased inhabitants engaged in no wars and 
carried no arms ; every weapon was carefully shut 

1 Tac. Germ. vii. . "Deo, quern adesse bellantibus credunt." 

2 Ibid. xl. . "Nerthum (Hertham), id est terrain matrem." 

3 Alsen, Zealand, and Oesel have put in a rival claim to the 
goddess: ! 


up. Then, and then only, were peace and quiet 
known and loved, until the same priest restored the 
goddess, sated with the society of men, to her sanc- 
tuary in the holy island. Immediately on her 
return "the chariot, the vestments, and, strange to 
say, the goddess herself were bathed in the secret 
lake. Slaves attended her on this occasion, whom 
the same lake forthwith swallowed up ; and hence 
the mysterious awe of the worshippers, and their 
holy ignorance of the nature of the being, whom only 
men about to die might see." l 

Of a somewhat secondary class was Tuisco, " the 
earthborn god," 2 from whom the Germans derived 
life and name. His son Mannus was the first of 
human beings, and father of Ingo, Isco, and Irmino, 
the progenitors of the three great tribes into which 
the German race was divided, the Ingaevones, Is- 
caevones, and the Hermiones. 

The traditions and legends of the early Germans 
also manifest a belief in an inferior class of super- 
natural beings, or Daemons, both bad and good. 
Among these the Giants, if we may judge from 
analogy with the Scandinavian Mythology, played 
a terribly conspicuous part, as rivals and enemies 
of the gods. Dwarfs, too, and Elves, and Cobolds 
or Goblins, were objects of serious and universal 

1 Tacitus (A?in. i. 51.) also mentions a German goddess Tanfana, 
whose " temple' Germanicus destroyed in the country of the 
Marsi (Westphalia): "Celeberrimum illis gentibus templum quod 
Tanfanae vocabant solo sequanttir." 

2 Tac. Genu. ii. : u Tuisconem Deum terra editum." 

26 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

faith, a faith which still, to a certain degree, main- 
tains itself in the cottages and nurseries of modern 

It is a very peculiar characteristic of German 
heathenism that women occupied so lofty a position 
in its service. The power of prophecy was supposed 
to reside chiefly in the female sex \ and in some indi- 
viduals — the " Wise Women" or Alrunas — to such a 
degree, that whole tribes regarded their responses 
with as much respect as the oracles of a god. One 
of these prophetesses, Veleda, a virgin of the Bruc- 
terans, who had rightly foretold the victory of her 
countrymen over the Roman legions, was treated with 
more than royal honours, and her favour was sought 
by powerful leaders at the head of armies. The 
ambassadors sent by the people of Cologne to consult 
her were not admitted to her presence. Seated in a 
lofty tower, she delivered her responses to a chosen 
kinsman, who was received by the expectant and 
awe-struck envoys like a messenger from heaven. 
Veleda was afterwards taken prisoner, and appears 
to have graced a triumph in the streets of Rome." 

1 Tac. Germ. viii. : " Inesse quinetiara sanctum aliquid et pro- 
vidam (feminis) putant ; nee aut consilia earum adspernantur, aut 
responsa negligunt." Conf. Virtut Mulierum, p. 246. : 

Ek: tovtuv CteriXovv 7repl re 7ro\£f.iov kcu elpijvqg fiovXevofAevoL jxerd 
ru)i' ywaucwr. Jornand. de Rebus Goth. c. 24. The modern Ger- 
mans are not all so polite as their ancestors. Lipsius, in a note 
on the passage of Tacitus quoted, remarks : "Hocne supererat? 
heu ipsos parum firma mente qui earn qucesivere apud amentem 
sexton /' Tac. Germ. ix. Tac. Hist. iv. 61. 65., v. 22. 

2 Statins Sih\ i. 4. 90. : " Captiraqut: preces Veleda'/' 1 


Mention is made of her successor Gauna, — who 
flourished in the reign of Domitian, — of Aurinia, and 
others. Though the above-mentioned prophetesses 
appear to have been " virgins/ 7 the prophetic power 
was not considered to be confined to the German 
maidens, as is clear from a passage in Caesar, in 
which he says that Ariovistus, on .one occasion, 
declined battle, because the " matresfamilice" had de- 
clared from the omens that the Germans could not 
be victorious if they fought before the new moon. 1 
The Alrunse took their auguries from the entrails 
of sacrificial beasts, the blood of slaughtered captives, 
and the sounds and phenomena of nature — as the 
noise of the breaking waves, the changes of the 
moon, &c. 

We know even less of the modes of German worship 
than of the gods themselves. It consisted of sacrifice 
and, no doubt, of prayer. The victims were partly 
human — prisoners taken in war, purchased slaves, and 
criminals — and partly what Tacitus calls concessa ani- 
malia {allowable animals), by which he means those 
which were sacrificed by civilised nations. The hor- 
rible practice of sacrificing men was not entirely dis- 
continued among the Franks, even after their nominal 

conversion to Christianity 2 ; and the Danes and 
Normans retained the custom down to the time of the 
emperor Henry the Fowler. It is generally held that 
human victims were only offered to Wuotan (Odhinn, 

1 C03S. B. Gall. i. 50. 

2 Procop. dii Bell. Goth. ii. 25. 

28 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

or Mercury.) 1 To the other gods they sacrificed all 
the usual beasts, but more particularly horses ; and it 
Avould appear that to each god some one animal was 
dedicated as his appropriate offering. Images of these 
animals were kept in the consecrated groves, and 
borne as standards in war 2 ; a custom from which 
some derive the armorial bearings of distinguished 
chiefs. With regard to their prayers, Grimm conjec- 
tures that they were offered with bowed and unco- 
vered head, upturned eye, clasped hands and bended 
knee ; but nothing is really known on this subject. 
Some writers follow Cassar in thinking that the 
Germans had no priests ; a singular opinion in the 
face of so much evidence to the contrary. Tacitus 
tells us that the priests alone had the right of binding 
and flogging in the German armies ; and that they did 
it, not as it were by order of the general, but at the 
command of the god who was present in the camp. 3 
In the general legislative assembly of the people, 
also, the priests commanded silence, preserved order, 
and had the exclusive right of controlling that fierce 
and armed democracy, who would listen to nothing 
less than the command of God in the voice of his 
ministers. 4 It is true, however, that there was no 

1 But Jornand. (de Beb. Goth,) says of the Goths : " VictimaB 
ejus (Martis) mortes fuere captorum." 

2 Tac. Germ. vii. : " Effigiesque et signa qua3daro, detracta 
lucis, in prcelium ferunt." Tac. Hist iv. 22. : "Inde depromptae 
silvis lucisve ferarum imagines ut cuique genti prcelium inire mos 

3 Tac. Germ. vii. 4 Ibid. xi. 


priestly caste, and that every paterfamilice 1 could 
perform religious offices for his own family. 

The Germans took their auguries from the flight and 
song of birds ; from the issue of a single combat be" 
tween one of their own warriors and a captive enemy, 
— each being armed with his national weapons 2 — and 
from the cadence of the Barditus (Barritus), or war- 
chaunt. 3 The Roman historian also describes a method 
in use among them of taking omens from lots. Having 
severed a branch from a fruit-bearing tree, they cut it 
up into small pieces, and, after inscribing certain 
marks or runes on each cutting, they scattered them 
promiscuously over a white cloth. Then, if the omen 
were sought respecting a public matter, the state priest 
— if in a private affair, the paterfamilias — supplicated 
the aid of the gods with upturned eyes, and, having 
raised each cutting three times, interpreted the will of 
heaven from the inscriptions. 4 

But there were no auspices in which they placed 
such implicit faith as those derived from the neighing 
of horses. White horses were maintained at the 
public expense in the very sacred forest abodes of the 
gods themselves. Unpolluted by the contact of human 
labour, these animals were kept exclusively forreligious 
purposes ; and when they drew the chariot of a god, 
the chief priest or the ruler of the state accompanied 
them, and carefully observed the sounds they uttered. 5 
The highest importance was attached to these indica- 

1 Tac. Germ. x. - Ibid. x. 3 Ibid. iii. 

4 Ibid. xi. 5 Ibid. x. 


tions of the divine will by all classes of the people. 
Even the priests considered that they themselves were 
but the ministers, while the horses were the confidants 
of the gods. 1 The Roman historian erroneously con- 
siders that this kind of divination was peculiar to the 
German races. 2 

The notions of the ancient Germans respecting 
a future state appear to have been somewhat analo- 
gous to those of the early Greeks. Walhalla, like the 
Elysian Fields, was only open to heroes, — to those who 
had fallen bravely on the field of battle with their 
wounds in front. These the goddess Freia with her 
attendant maidens selected from the bloody plain 
and bore away to the heavenly abode of the mighty 
Wuotan, who came forth to welcome them in person. 
A banquet was prepared for their reception, and they 
feasted with the gods on the flesh of the divine Boar, 
and quaffed the celestial Goat's mead from ever-flow- 
ing goblets. The life in the future world was a con- 
tinuation, on a sublimer scale, of the warrior's career 
on earth. Each morning they rode forth armed and in 
gorgeous array to some chosen battle-field, and, having 
felled each other to the ground till they were weary, 
returned with fresh delight to the banquets and the 
wine- cups of Walhalla. 3 

To those of our readers to whom the above account 
is unsatisfactory from its unavoidable brevity, we re- 
commend the works of Jacob Grimm and Simrock ; 

1 " Se enim ministros Deorum, illos (equos) conscios putant." 

2 Herodot. iii. 84, 83. 

" Simrock's Handb. der Deutscli. Mythol. 


where they will find the subject ably treated and 
thoroughly exhausted. And if there are some to 
whom what is here said seems more than is warranted 
by historical evidence, they may refresh themselves 
with the conciseness of the historian Luden 1 , who 
says, when speaking on this subject : " The Germans 
believed in a Divine Providence rulins; over all 
things, and before this power they bowed in humility 

and reverence But they had no gods or 

priests, nor any external church. Whatever else has 
been said on this subject is error, fable, and misre- 
presentation ! ' 7 

As the foregoing account has been drawn princi- 
pally, though not exclusively, from the work of 
Tacitus, it will be necessary to say something of 
that work itself, and to refer briefly to the opinion 
of some modern writers, at variance with the views 
which we have endeavoured to set before the reader. 
It seems almost incredible that this admirable work, 
confirmed as it is in all its most important state- 
ments by the general voice of antiquity, and by in- 
numerable facts which lie before us at the present 
day, should ever have been denied all historical 
value, and flippantly set aside as a clever fiction, 
written by the author in an u acces d'humeur" to sa- 
tirise the vices of his countrymen. 2 There are indeed 

1 Gesch. der. Teutschen. i. p. 1S6. 

2 Guizot, Hist, de la Civil., i. p. 258. . " Tacite a peint les Ger- 
mains coroine Montaigne et Rousseau les sauvages, dans tin acces 
cVhumeur contre sa patrie ; son livre est une satire des moeurs 
romaines." Yet he allows that we may trust his facts. " Les faits 
sont exacts ; . . . l'imagination de Tacite est essentiellement forte 

32 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

few who maintain this extraordinary view of the 
" Germania " of Tacitus ; yet some writers of note 
agree with M. Guizot in describing the ancient Germans 
as a race of savages, in no way superior to other bar- 
barians at the same stage of their progress towards 
civilisation. Among these authors, we must reckon 
Gibbon and Adelung. The latter, in speaking of his 
forefathers, says : "In this state the barbarian ap- 
proaches nearer to the rapacious beast than to the 
civilised man, ennobled by knowledge, manners, and 
taste." " Hence," he continues, a little farther on, 
" the absence of all the more refined emotions of love, 
gratitude, and benevolence, because the structure of 
his nerves can only be shaken by powerful masses." 
. . " Hence the oppression and subjuga- 
tion of everything weaker than himself, and parti- 
cularly of the woman, whom he degrades to a slave, 
and condemns to the meanest and most laborious 
offices. 1 In another passage, too long to quote entire, 
he ascribes to them the violent passions of an enraged 

et vraie ; . . . . jamais la vie barbare n'a ete peinte avec plus 
de vigueur, plus de verite poetique. . . . Rien ne le prouve 
mieux que les recits d'Ammien Marcellin. pur soldat, saus ima- 
gination, sans instruction, qui avait fait la guerre contre les Ger- 
mains, et dont les descriptions simple et breves, coincident presque 
partout avec les vives et savantes couleurs de Tacite." 

1 Adelung's Aelteste Gesch. der Deutschen (Leipzig, 1806), 
p. 296, et seq. Did the civilised Athenians show any great 
respect for their women ? As an antidote to the poisoned words 
of Adelung, vide Pomp. Mela, iii. 3. : " Tantum hospitibus boni, 
mitesque supplieibus." Conf. Cses. B. G. vi. 23. Tac. Germ. xxi. 
Lex Burgund. tit. 33. : " Quicunque hospiti venienti tectum aut 
focum negavcrit, trium solidorum inlatione multetur." 


wild beast, and charges them with being addicted to 
cruelty, " tempered only by interested motives," 
" idleness, 1 ' " hatred of control " " drunkenness," 
"theft," "rape," "falsehood," " treachery," and the 
darkest superstition. Their hospitality he accounts 
for by saying that " it always goes hand in hand 
with the love of drinking," and that " barbarians are 
always hospitable in proportion as they are rude and 
wild." Their " chastity " fares no better at his hands. 
" They could not," he says, " have many allurements 
to the contrary in their cold and humid climate." The 
continence, therefore, which " many writers praise 
in the Germans, was not virtue but nature." When 
the German punished adultery so severely, he did it, 
" not out of hatred to vice, but out of revenge for the 
attack on his property — his wife being the first 
among his serfs." He reluctantly allows that they 
were not cannibals, but declares that they " understood 
scalping perfectly ! " l 

Now, if the authorities for all this abuse — for we 
can call it nothing else — were as good, as they are 
utterly insufficient and worthless, would it be pos- 

1 Adelitng, Aelteste Gesch. der Deutsch. p. 303. : " Dass sie das 
scalpiren so gut verstanden, als die Nord-Amerikanischen Wilden, 
erhellet noch aus mehrern Spuren selbst des mittlern Alters. 
Das decalvare im West-Gothisehen Gesetze, das capillos et cutem 
detrahere, welches bey den Franken noch 879 iiblich war, nach 
den Annal. Fuld. das Angel-Sachs Hettinan, capillos cum ipsa 
capitis pelle detrahere, das Haar mit Kloben auszuwinden der 
mittlern Zeiten, wovon die Haranscara der spatern Zeiten noch 
ein gelinder Ueberrest ist, war wohl nichts anders." 


34 THE FBANKS. [Chap. I. 

sible to point out, or even imagine, a more degraded 
race of savages ? And will any one who has studied 
history assert that all barbarians are alike ? or that, 
if there be any disparity among them, the ancient 
Germans are at the bottom of the scale ? Is there, 
then, really no difference between one race and another 
in capacity for development, progress, and dominion ? 
Were the early Greeks no better than the other 
barbarians of their time ? Were the Germans of 
whom Tacitus writes, no better than the Sarmatians 
or the Huns ? — and could every other race, under the 
same circumstances, have run the course which the 
Anglo-Saxons are now running ? If Tacitus was 
misled by his imagination and enthusiasm to paint 
the Germans in too flattering colours, what was it 
that excited his fancy and secured his predilection 
in their favour ? If it was barbarism that he loved, 
because it was farthest removed from the sickly 
refinements, the unnatural tastes, and monstrous 
vices of his age and country, why does he discrimi- 
nate so carefully between different tribes of Germans ? 
Why does he speak contemptuously of the equally 
barbarous Gauls, the Sarmatians, and the Fins? 1 
So discriminating an admiration cannot be the result 
of unfounded partiality. Nor have we any good 
grounds for believing in any peculiar regard on his 
part towards his country's most formidable enemies. 
He was a genuine Roman, and little likely to hail 
with pleasure the new sun, which, as his acute and 

1 Tac. Germ. xlvi. 


darkly foreboding mind foresaw, was about to rise 
over the ruins of the tottering Empire. We have 
before us a truly Eoman expression of feelings 
forced from him by this presentiment, and breathing 
anything but partial fondness. " The nation of the 
Bructeri," he says, " was utterly destroyed by the 
co-operation of the neighbouring tribes, either out 
of hatred for their pride, or lust of booty, or by the 
favour of the gods towards us ; for they did not 
grudge us even the spectacle of the combat. Above 
60,000 of them fell, not by Roman arms, but, what 
is grander still, as a spectacle for our eyes. Long- 
may there exist and endure among the nations, if 
not a love for us, at least a hatred for one another ; 
since, amid the declining fates of the Empire, fortune 
can grant us no greater boon than the discord of our 
enemies ! " 1 

There is nothing so extravagant, even in the pas- 
sages most flattering to the national character of the 
Germans, as to lead us for one moment to suspect 
that Tacitus is not drawing from the life. The im- 
pression which he leaves upon our mind is, that they 
were an energetic and noble race of barbarians of 
whom much might be augured for the future ; but 
still barbarians with many of the failings and vices 
natural to their state. And this is all we claim for 
them. We do not wish to fall into the morbid pa- 
triotism of a Luden, who is inclined to call in ques- 
tion the authenticity of the " Germania " because it 

1 Tac. Germ, xxxiii. 

l» 2 

3G THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

sometimes blames as well as praises his rude fore- 
fathers ; and who actually disputes the truth of 
some actions recorded there, because they are in- 
consistent with his notions of the moral purity of 
the German mind ! * Such principles of criticism 
are simply ridiculous. All that we have endea- 
voured in this place to prove, — that the Germans 
possessed a pre-eminent capacity for development, 
progress, and dominion — might be gathered from 
other works of Tacitus (the historical value of which 
has never been disputed), even though the " Ger- 
mania" had not been written. The attitude which 
the Germans assumed towards the Romans on their 
first meeting in Gaul, and in their subsequent inter- 
course, was never that of mere savages. 2 They did 

1 It is not a little amusing to compare the opinions of Adelung 
with those of Luden. The latter (Gesch. der Teutschen, i. p. 261.) 
endeavours to show that the story of the abduction of Segestes' 
daughter Thusnelda by Arminius must be false, because the heart 
of the hero was too full of patriotism to have room for love, and 
because such an act would offend the moral sense of the German 
nation and lessen his influence over them. Thusnelda, Luden 
thinks, would never have consented to bear children to be slaves 
in Rome. 

2 Read the interesting negotiations between Csesar and Ario- 
vistus, in the course of which the latter, when invited to a con- 
ference, replies (Cess. B. G. i. 34, 35, 36.): "Si quid ipsi a 
Cresare opus esset, sese ad eum venturum fuisse ; si quid Me se 
velit, ilium ad se venire oportere. . . . Sibi autem mirum 
videri, quid in sua Gallia, quam bello vicisset, aut Caesari, aut orn- 
nino populo Romano negotii esset." And again (c. 36.): " Nemi- 
nem secum sine sua pernicie contendisse. Quum vellet, congre- 
deretur ; intellecturum, quid invicti Germa?ii, exercitatissimi in 
armis, qui inter annos quatuordecim tectum non subissent, virtute 


not, indeed, undervalue the Roman power ; they 
knew that it was terrible, that it had hitherto been 
irresistible. They neither recklessly sought a colli- 
sion with Ca3sar, nor did they timidly shrink from it, 
when they thought their rights invaded, for they 
had a proud consciousness of what was in themselves. 
They were not overawed by the superiority which 
long ages of wealth and civilisation had conferred 
upon their opponents. They did not, as is the cus- 
tom with mere savages, slink away before the face of 
those who came armed with the power of knowledge 
and adorned by the arts of life ; nor did they seek 
to denationalise themselves by slavishly aping what 
they could not really acquire. 1 They looked their 
superiors boldly and calmly in the face ; they kept 
up their pride in their own race and name, and 
considered the Ubii degraded by the adoption of the 
Roman dress and manners. They quickly learned 
from their enemies what it suited their purpose to 

1 Their pride in the German name is very remarkable. Tac. 
Germ, xxviii. : "Treveri et Nervii circa adfectationem Germanics 
originis ultro ambitiosi sunt, tanquam per heme gloriam sanguinis 
a similitudine et inertia Gallorum separentur. . . Ne Ubii qui- 
dem . . . origine erubescunt." Tac. Hist. iv. 28. : " Actae utro- 
bique praedae, infestius in Ubiis, quod gens Germanicce originis 
ejurata patria, Romanorum nomen, Agrippinenses vocarentur." 
Compare the interesting passage in Tacitus (A?i?ial. xiii. 54.), 
in which he relates that the Frisian ambassador, being in the 
theatre at Rome, asked who the strangers were who occupied the 
seats of the Senators: "postquam audiverant, 'earum gentium 
legatis id honoris datum, quae virtute et amicitia Romana prae- 
cellerent,' ?iullos mortalium armis aut fide ante Germanos esse 
exclamant, degrediunturque et inter Patres considunt." 

d 3 

38 THE FRANKS. [Chap. I. 

know. In the service of the Empire, they became the 
most skilful soldiers : they formed the bravest legions ; 
they decided the fate of the most important battles ; 
they furnished the ablest generals and statesmen, 
— men who, single-handed, sustained the imperial 
throne, yet in the very heart of the Emperor's palace 
never ceased to be Germans. And when at last 
they threw themselves upon the Roman Empire, with 
the determination to take possession of its fairest 
provinces, no difficulties and no disasters could deter 
them. Though often defeated, they were never 
conquered: a wave might roll back, but the tide 
advanced ; they held firmly to their purpose till it was 
attained ; they wrested the ball and sceptre from 
Roman hands, and have kept them until now. 





A.D. 240 to A.D. 511. 

It is well known that the name of " Frank " is not to 
be found in the long list of German tribes preserved 
to us in the " Germania " of Tacitus. Little or no- 
thing is heard of them before the reign of Gordian 
III. In A. d. 240 Aurelian, then a tribune of the 
sixth legion stationed on the Rhine, encountered a 
body of marauding Franks near Mayence, and drove 
them back into their marshes. 1 The word " Francia' 7 
is also found at a still earlier date, in the old Roman 
chart called the Charta Peutingeria, and occupies on 
the map the right bank of the Rhine from opposite 
Coblentz to the sea. The origin of the Franks has 
been the subject of frequent debate, to which French 

1 Vopiscus, in Aurelian. c. 7. (Hist. Aug. Script Ludg. Batav. 
1671, torn. ii. p. 433.): "Francos irruentes .... sic 
adflixit, ut trecentos ex his captos, septingentis interemptis sub 
corona vendiderit. Unde iterum de eo facta est cantilena : ' Mille 
Francos,, mille Sarmatas serael occidimus.' The Franks on this 
occasion, which was thought by the Romans important enough 
to be celebrated by a song, lost about 1000 men killed or taken 
prisoners ! 

j> 4 

40 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

patriotism has occasionally lent some asperity. At 
the time when they first appear in history, the 
Romans had neither the taste nor the means for his- 
torical research, and we are therefore obliged to de- 
pend in a great measure upon conjecture and combi- 
nation. It has been disputed whether the word 
" Frank" was the original designation of a tribe, 
which by a change of habitation emerged at the 
period above mentioned into the light of history, or 
that of a new league, formed for some common object 
of aggression or defence, by nations hitherto familiar 
to us under other names. 

We can in this place do little more than refer to a 
controversy, the value and interest of which has been 
rendered obsolete by the progress of historical inves- 
tigation. The darkness and void of history have as 
usual been filled with spectral theories, which vanish 
at the challenge of criticism and before the gradually 
increasing light of knowledge. 

We need hardly say that the origin of the Franks 
lias been traced to fugitive colonists from Troy; 
for what nation under Heaven has not sought to 
connect itself, in some way or other, with the glo- 
rified heroes of the immortal song ? x Nor is it sur- 
prising that French writers, desirous of transferring 
from the Germans to themselves the honours of the 
Frankish name, should have made of them a tribe of 

1 Domus Carol. Geneal. Monumenta Germanica (ed. Pertz), 
torn. ii. p. 310. : "Priamus et Antenor egressi a Troja venerunt 
in Secambria, et inde in Pannonia, et inde in Meotides paludes, 
ut inde juxta ripas fluminis Reni in extrema parte Germanise." 


Gauls, whom some unknown cause had induced to 
settle in Germany, and who afterwards sought to re- 
cover their ancient country from the Roman con- 
querors. 1 At the present day, however, historians of 
every nation, including the French, are unanimous 
in considering the Franks as a powerful confederacy 
of German tribes, who in the time of Tacitus inhabited 
the north-western parts of Germany bordering on the 
Rhine. And this theory is so well supported by 
many scattered notices, slight in themselves, but 
powerful when combined, that we can only wonder 
that it should ever have been called in question. 
Nor was this aggregation of tribes under the new 
name of Franks a singular instance ; the same took 
place in the case of the Alemanni and Saxons. 2 

1 ITist Francor. Epitom. per Fredegar. Schol. c. ii. (ap. Bou- 
quet, torn. ii. p. 391.) After describing the wanderings of the fu- 
gitives from Troy, this writer continues : " Denuo bifaria divisione 
Europam media ex ipsis pars cum Francione eorum Rege ingressa 
fuit. Qui Europam pervagantes cum uxoribus et liberis Rheni 
ripam occuparunt. Nee procul a Rheno civitatem ad instar 
TrojaB nominis aedificare conati sunt .... Et per Fran- 
cionem vocati stmt Franci" This Trojan theory has been de- 
fended in modern times by Turk, Kritische Gesch. der Franken. 
Conf. Cluveri Germania Antiqua, iii. p. 85. Ludg. Batav. 1616. 
A false reading in Cicero's Ep. ad Atticum, lib. xiv. epist. 10., 
where Fangones has been corrupted into Frangones, is brought 
forward to prove that the Franks were known by that name in 
the time of Cicero. Cluver. iii. 82. 

2 Cluveri Germ. Antiq. iii. p. 85. : " Sed tempus nunc etiam 
ostendatur, quo Francorum nomen dictae nationes, in unum corpus 
congresses, primum sibi imposuerint. Factum id ego arbitror 
paullo post quam Alemanni, contra Romanos rebellantes, in Galliam 
Rhaetiamque excurrere coeperunt." 

42 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

The actuating causes of these new unions are un- 
known. They may be sought for either in external 
circumstances, such as the pressure of powerful ene- 
mies from without, or in an extension of their own 
desires and plans, requiring the command of greater 
means, and inducing a wider co-operation of those, 
whose similarity of language and character rendered 
it most easy for them to unite. But perhaps we 
need look no farther for an efficient cause than the 
spirit of amalgamation which naturally arises among 
tribes of kindred race and language, when their 
growing numbers, and an increased facility of 
moving from place to place, bring them into more 
frequent contact. The same phenomenon may be 
observed at certain periods in the history of almost 
every nation, and the spirit which gives rise to it 
has generally been found strong enough to over- 
come the force of particular interests and petty na- 

The etymology of the name adopted by the new 
confederacy is also uncertain. The conjecture which 
has most probability in its favour is that adopted 
long ago by Gibbon, and confirmed in recent times by 
the authority of Grimm, which connects it with the 
German word Frank (free). 1 The derivation pre- 

1 Grimm's G-esch. der Deutschen Sprache, i. p. 512. Franci 
Francorum. In old high German, Franchon Franchono ; in 
Anglo-Saxon, Francan Francena ; but the old Norse, Frakkar, 
Frakka, leads us back to the notion " frank and free." Another 
derivation, says Grimm, has been proposed : from the Gothic 
Hramjan (Agere) comes the Frankish Adchramire, and after 


ferred by Adelung from frak (in modern German 
frech, bold), with the inserted nasal, differs from that 
of Grimm only in appearance. No small countenance 
is given to this derivation by the constant recurrence 
in after times of the epithet "truces" " feroces," 
which the Franks were so fond of applying to them- 
selves, and which they certainly did everything to 
deserve. Tacitus speaks of nearly all the tribes, 
whose various appellations were afterwards merged in 
that of Frank, as living in the neighbourhood of the 
Rhine. 1 Of these the principal were the Sicambri 
(the chief people of the old Isccevonian tribe), who, 
as there is reason to believe, were identical with the 
Salian Franks. The confederation further comprised 
the Bructeri, the Chamavi, Ansibarii, Tubantes, Marsi, 
and Chasuarii, of whom the five last had formerly 
belonged to the celebrated Cheruscan league, which, 
under the hero Arminius, destroyed three Roman 
legions in the Teutoburgian Forest. 2 The strongest 

the substitution of pli for ch (p. 349.) adframire, the abused 
framea, the Anglo-Saxon diminutive franca (for frameca), from 
which Frank* For another derivation of the name of Frank, 
vid. Libanii Orat. LX. (ed. Reiske, iii. p. 317.). 

1 Plin. Nat. Hist iv. 28. : " Proximi autem Rheno Istaevones, 
quorum pars . . . Chatti, Cherusci." 

2 Amm. Mar. xx. 10. . " (Julian us) Rheno exinde transmisso 
regionem subitopervasit Francorum, quos Atthuarios (Ampsuarios, 
Ansuarios) vocant, inquietorum hominum, licentius etiam turn 
percursantium extima Galliarum." Amm. Mar. (xvii. 8. 9.) and 
the Emperor Julian speak of the Chamavi as Franks. Julian. 
Orat. ad S. P. Q. Athen. (Julian, Op. ed. Spanhem. p. 280.) : 
YTrE£)£L ) ajj.r}V jitv fxo'ipar rov SaXiiov idvovQ, Xa/.m£ovt; 8e it,i)\a(ju. 
Nazar. Paneg. Constant. 18. : "Quid memorem Bructeros? quid 

44 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

evidence of the identity of these tribes with the 
Franks, is the fact that, long after their settlement in 
Gaul, the distinctive names of the original people were 
still occasionally used as synonymous with that of the 
confederation. The Sicambri are well known in the 
Roman history for their active and enterprising 
spirit, and the determined opposition which they 
offered to the greatest generals of Rome. 1 It was on 
their account that Caesar bridged the Rhine in the 
neighbourhood of Bonn, and spent eighteen days, as 
he informs us with significant minuteness, on the 
German side of that river, Drusus made a similar 
attempt against them with little better success. 
Tiberius was the first who obtained any decided ad- 

Charaavos ? quid Cheruscos .... ? " Gregr. Turon. ii. 9. 
quotes from Sulpitius Alexander, by whom the Brieteri (sic), 
Chamavi, Ampsuarii, and Chatti are spoken of as Franks. The 
most certain and direct connection is that existing between the 
Sigambri and the Franks. Cluveri, Germ. Antiq. iii. p, 85. 
Sueton. in Vita Octav. 21. Flor. iv. 12. Conf. Strabo, vii. 1. 4. 
Caes. B. G. vi. 35. Claudian de 1 V. Consul. Honor. 446. (ed. 
Gesner. Lips. 1759): — 

" Ante ducem nostrum Havana sparsere Sycambri 
Caesariem, pavidoque orantes murmure Franci 
Procubuere solo." 

The Charta Peutingeria has " Chamavi Elpranci" probably a 
corruption of et Franci. 

1 Hor. Carm. iv. 2. 33. : — 

" Concines majore poeta plectro 
Caesarem, quandoque trahet feroces 
Per sacrum clivum, merita decorus 

Fronde, Sygambros." 

Chap. II.] THE SICAMBRI. 45 

vantage over them ; and even he, by his own con- 
fession, was obliged to have recourse to treachery. 1 
An immense number of them were then transported 
by the command of Augustus to the left bank of the 
Rhine 2 , "that," as the Panegyrist expresses it, " they 
might be compelled to lay aside not only their arms 
but their ferocity." a That they were not, however, 
even then, so utterly destroyed or expatriated as the 
flatterers of the Emperor would have us believe, is 
evident from the fact that they appear again under 
the same name, in less than three centuries after- 
wards, as the most powerful tribe in the Frankish 

The league thus formed was subject to two strong 
motives, either of which might alone have been 
sufficient to impel a brave and active people into a 

Hor. Carm. iv. 14. 51. : — 

" Te caede gaudentes Sygambri 
Compositis venerantur armis." 

Cses. B. G. iv. 16. Dio Cassius, liv. 33. 

1 Tac. Ann. ii. 26. : " Se (Tiberiura) novies a Divo August© 
in Germaniam missum, plura consilio quam vi perfecisse ; sic 
Sugambros in deditionem acceptos.' 7 

2 Tac. Ann. xii. 39. : " . . . ut quondam Sugarabri excisi aut in 
Gallias trajecti forent. . . ." Conf. S. Aurel. Victor. Epitom.i.i 
"(Octavianus) Sigambros in G-alliam transtulit.'' Sueton. Octav. 
c. 21. : " Sygambros dedentes se traduxit in Galliam atque in 
proxirais Rheno agris collocavit." 

3 Paneg. Incert. Auctor. c. 4. (apud Bouquet, torn. i. p. 714.) : 
" Nee contentus vicisse ipsas in Romanas transtulit nationes, ut 
non solum arma, sed etiam feritatem ponere cogerentur." Eu- 
menii Paneg. Constantio, cc. viii. ix. 

46 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

career of migration and conquest. The first of 
these was necessity, — the actual want of the neces- 
saries of life for their increasing population, — and 
the second desire, excited to the utmost by the 
spectacle of the wealth and civilisation of the Gallic 
provinces. 1 

As long as the Romans held firm possession of 
Gaul, the Germans could do little to gratify their 
longings ; they could only obtain a settlement in that 
country by the consent of the Emperor and on 
certain conditions. Examples of such merely tolerated 
colonisation were the Tribocci, the Vangiones, and the 
Ubii at Cologne. But when the Roman Empire began 
to feel the numbness of approaching dissolution, and, 
as is usually the case, first in its extremities, the Franks 
were amongst the most active and successful assailants 
of their enfeebled foe : and if they were attracted 
towards the West by the abundance they beheld of 
all that could relieve their necessities and gratify 
their lust of spoil, they were also impelled in the same 
direction by the Saxons, the rival league, a people as 

1 The Germans were very poor. Caesar, when speaking of the 
Volscae Tectosages, says : " Nunc quoque in eadem ifiopia, egestate, 
patientia qua Germany permanent." — B. G. vi. 24. They were 
also very numerous. Ariovistus transferred 120,000 Germans 
across the Rhine. — Cass. B. G. i. 31. The Usipetes and Tencteri 
numbered 430,000. Ccbs. B. G. vi. 24. : " Gallis autem pro- 
vincial propinquitas et transmarinarum rerum notitia multa ad 
copiam atque usus largitur." Tac. Hist. iv. 73. : " Eadem sem- 
per causa Germanis transcendendi in Gallias, libido atque avaritia 
et mutandag sedis amor, ut relictis paludibus et solitudinibus suis 
fecundissimum hoc solum vosque ipsos possiderent." 


brave and perhaps more barbarous than themselves. 
A glance at the map of Germany of that period will 
do much to explain to us the migration of the Franks, 
and that long and bloody feud between them and the 
Saxons, which began with the Catti and Cherusci \ 
and needed all the power and energy of a Charlemagne 
to bring to a successful close. The Saxons formed 
behind the Franks, and could only reach the provinces 
of Gaul by sea. It was natural therefore that they 
should look with the intensest hatred upon a people 
who barred their progress to a more genial climate 
and excluded them from their share in the spoils of 
the Roman world. 

The Franks advanced upon Gaul from two different 
directions, and under the different names of Saltans, 
and Ripuarians, the former of whom we have reason 
to connect more particularly with the Sicambrian 
tribe. The origin of the words Salian and Eipuarian, 
which are first used respectively by Ammianus 
Marcellinus and Jornandes, is very obscure, and has 
served to exercise the ingenuity of ethnographers. 2 
There are, however, no sufficient grounds for a de- 

1 Tac. Germ, xxxvi. 

2 Clovis was called " Sicamber " at his baptism by St. Rem?. 
Claudian. de Laudibus Stilichonis, i. 222. : — 

" Ut Salius jam rura colat, flexosque Sicambri 
In falcem cur vent gladios." 

Vita Sigismundi (Bouquet, torn. iii. p. 402.): "In ipsis temporibus 
cum Sicambrorum gens." Ammian. Marcell. (xvii. 8.) is the 
first who calls the Franks Salicms : ". . . . petit primos omnium 
Francos quos consuetudo Salios appellavit." 

48 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

cided opinion. At the same time it is by no means 
improbable that the river Yssel, Isala or Sal * (for 
it has borne all these appellations), may have given 
its name to that portion of the Franks who lived 
along its course. With still greater probability may 
the name Ripuarii or Riparii, be derived from Ripa, 
a term used by the Romans to signify the Rhine. 2 
These dwellers on the Bank were those that remained 
in their ancient settlements while their Salian 
kinsmen were advancing into the heart of Gaul. 

It would extend the introductory portion of this 
work beyond its proper limits to refer, however 
briefly, to all the successive efforts of the Franks 
to gain a permanent footing upon Roman ground. 
Though often defeated, they perpetually renewed the 
contest; and when Roman historians and panegyrists 
inform us that the whole nation was several times 
" utterly destroyed" the numbers and geographical 
position in which we find them a short time after 
every such annihilation, prove to us the vanity of 
such accounts. Aurelian, as we have seen, defeated 

1 Cluver. Germ. Antiq. iii. p. 60. : " Francorun quondam gentem 
ad hoc usque pertinuisse flumen (Isalam), infra docebo. Julianus 
Caesar in oratione ad senatum populumque Atheniensem, item 
Marcellinus lib. xvii., et Zosimus lib. iii. ; Notitia imperii et 
Sidonius Apollin. carm. vii. Salios habent gentem Francicam. 
Hodie regio Isalae, adjacens vocatur vulgo Salland," seq. Leo, in 
his " Mittelalter," derives the name Terra Salica from Saljan 
tradere; so that the Salii would be the Franks who settled in 
newly conquered possessions. 

2 Tac. Gemu xxiii. : "Proximi Bipa>." Ibid. xxix. : " Non 
multum ex Bipa.^ 


them at Mayence, in a.d. 242, and drove them into 
the swamps of Holland. They were routed again 
about twelve years afterwards by Gallienus 1 ; but 
they quickly recovered from this blow, for in a. d. 276 
we find them in possession of sixty Gallic cities 2 , of 
which Probus 3 is said to have deprived them, and 
to have destroyed 400,000 of them and their allies 
on Roman ground. 4 In a.d. 280, they gave their 
aid to the usurper Proculus, who claimed to be of 
Frankish blood, but was nevertheless betrayed by 
them 5 ; and in a.d. 288, Carausius the Menapian 
was sent to clear the seas of their roving barks. But 
the latter found it more agreeable to shut his eyes 
to their piracies, in return for a share of the booty, 
and they afterwards aided in protecting him from the 
chastisement due to his treachery, and in investing 
him with the imperial purple in Britain. 6 

1 Zon. Ann. xii. 24. (ed. B. G. Niebuhr. Bonn, 1844.) 

2 Zosim. Hist. (ed. Reitemeier. Lips. 1784), 1. i. c. 37. 

3 Zos. i. 68. 

4 Prob. 13.: " His gestis cumingenti exercitu Gallias 
petit ; quae omnes, occiso Postumio turbatae fuerunt, interfecto 
Aureliano, a Germanis possessae. Tanta autem illic praelia fe- 
liciter gessit, ut a barbaris sexaginta per Gallias nobilissimas 
reciperet civitates . . . caesis prope quadringentis millibus, 
qui Romanura occupaverunt solum." 

5 Vopisc. in Procul. : " Ipsis prodentibus Francis quibus fami- 
liare est ridendo fidem frangere. . . ." 

6 Eumenii Paneg. Const. Caes. 3. 9. (Paneg. Veter. ed. H. J. 
Arntzenius, Traject. ad Rhenum, 1790). Eumenius {Pan, Const. 
Ccbs. xvii.) speaks of a victory gained by Constantius's troops over 
the Franks near London, to the great delight of the Londoners : 
" Enimvero, Caesar invicte, tanto Deoruru immortalium tibi est 
addicta, consensu omnium quidem, quos adortus fueris, hostium, 


50 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

In the reign of Maximian, we find a Frankish 
army, probably of Ripuarians, at Treves, where they 
were defeated by that emperor ; and both he and 
Diocletian adopted the title of " Franc^us," which 
many succeeding emperors were proud to bear. The 
first appearance of the Salian Franks, with whom this 
history is chiefly concerned, is in the occupation of 
the Batavian Islands, in the Lower Rhine. They 
were attacked in that territory in a.d. 292, by Constan- 
tius Chlorus, who, as is said, not only drove them out 
of Batavia, but marched, triumphant and unopposed, 
through their own country as far as the Danube. 
The latter part of this story has little foundation 
either in history or probability. 1 

The most determined and successful resistance to 
their progress was made by Constantine the Great, 
in the first part of the fourth century. We must, 
however, receive the extravagant accounts of the 
imperial annalists with considerable caution. 2 It is 
evident, even from their own language, that the 

sed praecipue internecio Francorum, ut illi quoque milites vestri, 
qui per erroreni nebulosi ut paullo ante dixi maris abjuncti ad 
oppidum Londiniense pervenerant, quiquid ex mercenaria ilia 
multitudine barbarorum prrelio superfuerat, cum direpta civitate, 
fugam capessere cogitarent, passim tota urbe confecerint ; et non 
solam provincialibus vestris in ccede hostium dederint salutem, sed 
etiam in spectaculo voluptatem." 

1 Eumenii Paneg. ii.: " . . . a ponte Rheni usque ad Danubii 
transitum Guntiensem, deusta atque exhausta penitus Alamania." 

2 Eumen. Paneg. Const. Aug. vi., x., xii. (Arntzen. p. 362.). 
In chap. xii. Eumenius says : " . . . . exercitu repente trajecto 
inopinantes adortus es, non quo aperto Marte diffideres, ut cui 
palam eongrerli maluisses," &c. 


great emperor effected more by stratagem than by 
force. He found the Salians once more in Batavia, 
and, after defeating them in a great battle, carried off 
a large number of captives to Treves, the chief re- 
sidence of the emperor, and a rival of Rome itself in 
the splendour of its public buildings. 

It was in the circus of this city, and in the pre- 
sence of Constantine, that the notorious " Ludi 
Francici " were celebrated; at which several thousand 
Franks, including their kings Regaisus and Ascaricus, 
were compelled to fight with wild beasts, to the inex- 
pressible delight of the Christian spectators. 1 " Those 
of the Frankish prisoners," says Eumenius, " whose 
perfidy unfitted them for military service, and their 
ferocity for servitude, were given to the wild beasts 
as a show, and wearied the raging monsters by their 
multitude." 2 " This magnificent spectacle " Nazarius 
praises, some twenty years after it had taken place, 

1 Eumenius {Paneg, Const. Aug. xxii.) gives us a high idea 
of the magnificence of Treves: "Video Circum Maximum 
aemulum, credo, Romano ; video basilicas et forum, opera regia, 
sedemque justitiae in tantam altitudinem suscitari, ut se sideribus 
et caelo digna et vicina promittant." 

2 Incerti Paneg. (Maximiano et Constantino), iv. (Arntzen. i. 
319.). Eumen. Paneg. Const, x., xi., xii.: *' Reges ipsos Francise, 
qui per absentiam patris tui pacem violaverant, non dubitasti ulti- 
mis punire cruciatibus.'' "Puberes, qui in manus venerunt, quorum 
nee perfidia erat apta militias, nee ferocia servituti, ad pajnas 
spectaculo dati, sasvientes bestias multitudine sua fatigarunt." 
Incerti Paneg. Const Aug. xxiii. . " Tantum captivorum mul- 
titudinem bestiis objicit, ut ingrati et perfidi non minus doloris 
ex ludibrio sui quam ex ipsa morte patiantur 

e 2 


52 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

in the most enthusiastic terms, comparing Constan- 
tine to a youthful Hercules who had strangled two 
serpents in the cradle of his empire. 1 Eumenius 
calls it a " daily and eternal victory," and says that 
Constantine had erected terror as a bulwark against 
his barbarian enemies. 2 This terror did not, however, 
prevent the Franks from taking up arms to revenge 
their butchered countrymen, nor the Alemanni from 
joining in the insurrection. The skill and fortune of 
Constantine generally prevailed ; he destroyed great 
numbers of the Franks and the " innumerce gentes" who 
fought on their side, and really appears for a time to 
have checked their progress. 3 

It is impossible to read the brief yet confused 
account of these incessant encounters between the 
Romans and Barbarians, without coming to the con- 
elusion that only half the truth is told ; that while 
every advantage gained by the former is greatly ex- 
aggerated, the successes of the latter are passed over 
in silence. The most glorious victory of a Roman 
general procures him only a few months repose, 
and the destruction of " hundreds of thousands " 
of Franks and Alemanni seems but to increase their 
numbers. 4 We may fairly say of the Franks, what 

1 Nazarii Paneg. Const. Aug. xvi. (Paneg. Vet. ed. Arntzen. 
i. 581.). 

2 Eumen. Paneg. Const Aug. xi. : "Neque enim jam Rheni 
gurgitibus, sed nominis tui terrore munimur." 

3 Lactantius de Mort. Persecutor, xxix. (ed. Le Brim, Paris, 
1748). Incert. Paneg. Const. Aug. xxii. 

4 Naz. Panes?, ix. 1 7. 37. 


Julian and Eutropius have said respecting the 
Goths, that they were not so utterly annihilated 
as the panegyrists pretend, and that many of the 
victories gained over them cost " more money than 
blood." * 

The death of Constantine was the signal for a fresh 
advance on the part of the Franks. Libanius, the 
Greek rhetorician, when extolling the deeds of Con- 
stans, the youngest son of Constantine the Great, says 
that the emperor stemmed the impetuous torrent of 
barbarians " by a love of war even greater than their 
own." 2 He also says that they received overseers; 
but this was no doubt on Roman ground, which 
would account for their submission, as we know that 
the Franks were more solicitous about real than no- 
minal possession. During the frequent struggles for 
the Purple which took place at this period, the aid of 
the Franks was sought for by the different pretenders, 
and rewarded, in case of success, by large grants of land 

1 The panegyrist groans out his sense of the difficulty of re- 
pressing the Franks : " Trucem Francum quantce molis est supe- 
rare vel capere ! " 

2 Libanii Orat. (ed. Reiske. Altenburg, 1795), iii. 316. 318. 
(Orat. lx.) : . . . avrog tcl 7TEp) ty]v kcnripai' edvrj fiap^apa irav- 

rayo^EV TZEpiKEyvpiva ti)v Yiffv%iav ciyeii' Karr]}' ay kqlcte 

Kar a\\o jjiev ovSev /jlel^u) Be rfjg ekeli'ojv iTEp\ rag ^ayaq irpoQvfiiaq 
7v)v olh'etav vpolEi^aQ. P. 319. : ftpaKTOi jjlev ovv rotovrov v7rij\doi' 
'(vybv ZovXelclq. to yap fjiij EyEtv ETEpovQ Xrj't^EaOai rovro ekelvoiq 
%ov\Eia. . . . 'Ecit,avTO nap* rjfJiov apyovrag wcnrEp EiroTrrag tG>v 
dpufjivwv. Conf. Idatii Fasti Consul, in Eusebii Farnph. Chron. 
Canon, (ed. J. J. Scaliger. Amst. 1608), p. 33. Eusebii Pamph. 
Chron. lib. i. (ed. Scalig. p. 48.). 

E 3 

54 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

within the limits of the empire. 1 The barbarians 
consented, in fact, to receive as a gift what had 
really been won by their own valour, and could not 
have been withheld. Even previous to the reign of 
Constantine, some Frankish generals had risen to 
high posts in the service of Roman emperors. Mag- 
nentius, himself a German, endeavoured to support 
his usurpation by Frankish and Saxon mercenaries ; 
and Silvanus, who was driven into rebellion bv the 
ingratitude of Constantius, whom he had faithfully 
served, was a Frank. 2 

The state of confusion into which the empire was 
thrown by the turbulence and insolence of the Roman 
armies, and the selfish ambition of their leaders, was 
highly favourable to the progress of the Franks in 
Gaul. Their next great and general movement took 
place in a.d. 355, when, along the whole Roman fron- 
tier from Strasburg to the sea, they began to cross 
the Rhine, and to throw themselves in vast numbers 
upon the Gallic provinces, with the full determination 
of forming permanent settlements. But again the 
relenting fates of Rome raised up a hero in the person 
of the Emperor Julian, worthy to have lived in the 
most glorious period of her history. After one or 

1 Julian. Orat. ed. Spanhem, Lips. 1696, i. and ii., in Laudem 

2 Julian (Orat. i. 34. 42.) says that Magnentius was a slave, a 
barbarian captive : 'Arepairodov yap 7jy tuv zkuvov TTpoyovuv. 
Aurelitfs Victor calls him a barbarian, and Athanasius, with his 
usual vigour of style, speaks of Lira as tov lia€o\ov Mayvivrtor, 
Amm. Marcell. xv. o. : " Exoritur jam hinc rebus afflictis haud 
dispari provinciarum malo.'" 


two unsuccessful efforts, Julian succeeded in retaking 
Cologne and other places, which the Germans, true to 
their traditionary hatred of walled towns, had laid 
bare of all defences. 1 

In the last general advance of the Franks in a. d. 
355, the Salians had not only once more recovered Ba- 
tavia, but had spread into Toxandria, in which they 
firmly fixed themselves. 2 It is important to mark the 
date of this event, because it was at this time that 
the Salians made their first permanent settlement on 
the left bank of the Rhine, and by the acquisition 
of Toxandria laid the foundation of the kingdom of 
Clovis. Julian indeed attacked them there in a. d. 358, 
but he had probably good reasons for not reducing 
them to despair, as we find that they were permitted 
to retain their newly acquired lands, on condition of 
acknowledging themselves subjects of the empire. 3 

1 Julian. Orat. ii., and Epist. ad S. P. Q. Athen. Am?n. 
Marcell. xv. 8. . " Constantium vero exagitabant assidui nuntii, 
deploratas jam Gallias indicantes, nullo renitente ad inter- 
necionem, barbaris vastantibus universa." Mam. GraL Act- 
Jul. Aug. (Paneg. Vet. H. J. Arntzenius, Traj. ad Rh. 1790), 
iv. : " Florentissimas quondam antiquissimasque urbes Barbari 
possidebant .... In hoc statu Imperator noster Gallias 
nactus minimum habuit adversus hostem laboris atque discri- 
minis ; una acie Germania universa deleta est, uno praelio de- 
bellatum.' , Zosimus (iii. 2.) says that 60,000 Alemanni fell 
in the battle at Strasbourg, and as many were driven into the 
Rhine. Chodonomarius, king of the Franks, was among the cap- 
tives. Amm. Marcell. xvi. 3. 

2 Zos. iii. 6. Amm. Marcell. xvii. 8. : " . . . ausos (Salios) olim 
in Romano solo apud Toxandriam locum habitacula sibi ligere 

3 Julian. Epist. ad S. P. Q., Allien, pp. 278, 279. 

e 4 

56 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

He was better pleased to have them as soldiers than as 

enemies, and they, having felt the weight of his arm, 

were by no means averse to serve in his ranks, and 

to enrich themselves by the plunder of the East. 

Once in undisputed possession of Toxandria, they 

gradually spread themselves further and further, 

until, at the beginning of the fifth century, we find 

them occupying the left bank of the Rhine ; as may 

safely be inferred from the fact that Tongres, Arras, 

and Amiens are mentioned as the most northern of 

the Roman stations. At this time they reached 

Tournai, which became henceforth the chief town of 

the Salian Franks. The Ripuarians, meanwhile, 

were extending themselves from Andernach down- 

wards along the middle Rhine, and gained possession 
of Cologne about the time of the conquest of Tour- 
nai by their Salian brethren. On the left of the 
river they held all that part of Germania Secunda 
which was not occupied by the Salians. In Bel- 
gica Secunda, they spread themselves as far as the 
Moselle, but were not yet in possession of Treves, 
as we gather from the frequent assaults made by 
them upon that city. The part of Gaul therefore 
now subject to the Ripuarians was bounded on 
the north-west by the Silva Carbonaria, or Kohl- 
enwald ; on the south-west by the Meuse and the 
forest of Ardennes ; and on the south by the Mo- 

We shall be the less surprised that some of the 
fairest portions of the Roman Empire should thus 
fall an almost unresisting prey to barbarian invaders, 


when we remember that the defence of the empire 
itself was sometimes committed to the hands of 
Frankish soldiers. Those of the Franks who were 
already settled in Gaul, were often engaged in en- 
deavouring to drive back the ever-increasing mul- 
titude of fresh barbarians, who hurried across the 
Rhine to share in the bettered fortunes of their kins- 
men, or even to plunder them of their newly-acquired 
riches. 1 Thus Mallobaudes, who is called king of the 
Franks, and held the office of Domesticorum Comes 
under Gratian, commanded in the Imperial army 
which defeated the Alemanni at Argentaria. 2 And, 
again, in the short reign of Maximus, who assumed 
the purple in Gaul, Spain, and Britain, near the end of 
the fourth century, we are told that three Frankish 
kings, Genobaudes, Marcomeres, and Sunno, crossed 
the Lower Rhine, and plundered the country along 
the river as far as Cologne ; although the whole of 
Northern Gaul was already in possession of their 
countrymen. The generals Nonnius and Quintinus, 
whom Maximus had left behind him at Treves, the 
seat of the Imperial government in Gaul, hastened to 
Cologne, from which the marauding Franks had 
already retired with their booty. 3 Quintinus crossed 

1 These country cousins were by no means well received by 
their civilised brethren. 

2 Amm. MarcelL xxxi. 10: " . . . Mallobaudem . . . Regem 
Francoru m virum bellicosuni et fortem." Argentaria= Strasbourg ; 
(or Colmar in Alsace ?) Orosii adv. Pag. Hist. vii. 33. 

3 Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fredeg. Schol. iii. (apud Bouquet, 
torn. ii.). 

58 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

the Rhine, in pursuit, at Neus, and, unmindful of the 
fate of Varus in the Teutoburgian wood, followed the 
retreating enemy into the morasses. 1 The Franks, 
once more upon friendly and familiar ground, turned 
upon their pursuers, and are said to have .destroyed 
nearly the whole Roman army with poisoned arrows. 
The war continued, and was only brought to a success- 
ful conclusion for the Romans by the courage and 
conduct of Arbogastes, a Frank in the service of 
Theodosius. Unable to make peace with his barbarous 
countrymen 2 , and sometimes defeated by them, this 
general crossed the Rhine when the woods were leaf- 
less, ravaged the country of the Chamavi, Bructeri, and 
Catti, and having slain two of their chiefs named 
Priam and Genobaudes, compelled Marcomeres and 
Surmo to give hostages. 3 The submission of the 
Franks must have been of short continuance, for we 
read that in a.d. 398 these same kings, Marcomeres 
and Sunno, were again found ravaging the left bank of 
the Rhine by Stilicho. 4 This famous warrior defeated 

1 Snip. Alex, apud Greg. Tur. ii. 9. : " . . . paene omnibus, 
qui militibus praeerant, exstinctis, paucis effugium tutum nox et 
latibula sylvarum prasstitere." 

- Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fredeg. iii. 

3 Sulp. Alex. ap. Greg. Tur. ii. 9. 

4 Great as was the merit of Stilicho, Claudian contrives to 
put him in an almost ridiculous light by his fulsome adulation. 
Drusus and Trajan were miserable bunglers when compared to 
him ! See Claud, de Laud. Stil. i. 193. 196, 197. : — 

" Cedant, Druse, tui, cedant, Trajane, labores. 

totidemque diebus 

Edomuit Ehenum, quot vos potuistis in annis.'' 


them in a great battle, and sent the former, or perhaps 
both of them, in chains to Italy, where Marcomeres 
died in prison. 

The first few years of the fifth century are occupied 
in the struggle between Alaric the Goth and Stilicho, 
which ended in the sacking of Rome by the former in 
the year 410 a.d., the same in which he died. 1 

While the Goths were inflicting deadly wounds on 
the very heart of the empire, the distant provinces of 
Germany and Gaul presented a scene of indescribable 
confusion. Innumerable hosts of Astingians, Vandals, 
Alani, Suevi, and Burgundians, threw themselves like 
robbers upon the prostrate body of Imperial Rome, 
and scrambled for the gems which fell from her costly 
diadem. In such a storm the Franks could no longer 
sustain the part of champions of the empire, but 
doubtless had enough to do to defend themselves and 
hold their own. We can only guess at the fortune 
which befel the nations in that dark period, from the 
state in which we find them when the glimmering 
light of history once more dawns upon the chaos. 

Of the internal state of the Frankish league in 
these times, we learn from ancient authorities abso- 
lutely nothing on which we can safely depend. The 
blank is filled up by popular fable. It is in this 
period, about 417 a.d., that the reign of Pharamond 
is placed, of whom we may more than doubt whether 

1 Alaric had the high distinction of appearing before the gates 
of Rome, next after Hannibal. But what a different Rome did 
he find ! 


he ever existed at all. To this hero was afterwards 
ascribed, not only the permanent conquests made at 
this juncture by the various tribes of Franks, but the 
establishment of the monarchy, and the collection and 
publication of the well-known Salic laws. The sole 
foundation for this complete and harmonious fabric is 
a passage interpolated into an ancient chronicle of the 
fifth century ; and, with this single exception, Phara- 
mond's name is never mentioned before the seventh 
century. 1 The whole story is perfected and rounded 
off by the author of the " Gesta Francorum," according 
to whom, Pharamond was the son of Marcomeres, the 
prince who ended his days in the Italian prison. 
The fact that nothing is known of him by Gregory of 
Tours or Fredegarius is sufficient to prevent our re- 
garding him as an historical personage. 2 To this 
may be added that he is not mentioned in the pro- 
logue of the Salic law, with which his name has been 
so intimately associated by later writers. 

Though well authenticated names of persons and 

1 Prosp. in Chron. a Pithoeo ed. ad an. xxvi. Honorii : "Fara- 
mundus regnat in Francia." No value whatever is to be set on 
this passage. Of the work of Prosper, who lived in the fifth cen- 
tury, two MSS. are extant, one of which appears complete and 
uncorrupted, and contains no reference to Pharamond. The other 
is full of irrelevant interpolations, and among them the passage 
above quoted, which probably dates from the seventh century. 
Henschenius, in Exegesi de Epistola Tungrensi, doubts whether 
his name occurs before the ninth century. 

2 Gesta Franc, iv. (ap. Bouquet, torn, ii.): "Elegerunt Faramun- 
dum filium ipsius Marcomiri, et levaverunt eum super se regem 
crinitum." The Gesta Francor., as is well known, are of later 
date than the history of Gregory of Tours. 


places fail us at this time, it is not difficult to conjec- 
ture what must have been the main facts of the case. 
Great changes took place among the Franks, in the 
first half of the fifth century, which did much to 
prepare them for their subsequent career. The 
greater portion of them had been mere marauders, 
like their German brethren of other nations : they 
now began to assume the character of settlers ; and 
as the idea of founding an extensive empire was still 
far from their thoughts, they occupied in preference 
the lands which lay nearest to their ancient homes. 
There are many incidental reasons which make this 
change in their mode of life a natural and inevitable 
one. The country whose surface had once afforded 
a rich and easily collected booty, and well repaid 
the hasty foray of weeks, and even days, had been 
stripped of its movable wealth by repeated incur- 
sions of barbarians still fiercer than themselves. All 
that was above the surface the Alan and the Vandal 
had swept away, the treasures which remained had 
to be sought for with the plough. The Franks 
were compelled to turn their attention to that agri- 
culture which their indolent and warlike fathers 
had hated ; which required fixed settlements, and all 
the laws of property and person indissolubly con- 
nected therewith. Again, though there is no suffi- 
cient reason to connect the Salic laws with the 
mythical name of Pharamond, or to suppose that 
they were altogether the work of this age (since we 
know from Tacitus that the Germans had similar 
laws in their ancient forests), yet it is very probable 

62 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

that this celebrated code now received the form in 
which it has come down to us. This view of the 
case is strongly supported by internal evidence in 
the laws themselves, which, according to the " Pro- 
logue" were written while the Franks were still 
heathens, and are peculiarly suited to the simple 
wants of a barbarous people. Even the fiction of 
the foundation of the Frankish monarchy by Pha- 
ramond may indicate some real and important 
change. That there was at that time but one king 
" in Francia " is of course untrue ; but it seems 
highly probable, when taken in connection with the 
subsequent history, that the princes who reigned 
over the different Frankish tribes established in 
Gaul belonged, at this period, to one family. And 
this is the truth which appears to lie at the founda- 
tion of the story of this mythical personage. 

The next important and well established histo- 
rical fact which we meet with in this dreary waste 
of doubt and conjecture, is the Conquest of Cam- 
brai by Clodion, in a.d. 445. This acquisition 
forms the third stage in the progress of the Salian 
Franks towards the complete possession of Gaul. 
Of this event it will be necessaiy to speak more at 

The foremost among the kindred chiefs of the 
different Frankish tribes at this period was Clodion, 
whom some modern historians, and among them 
Gibbon, have represented, on the slenderest founda- 
tion, as the father of Merovasus, and first of the race 
of long-haired kings. Gregory of Tours gives no 


countenance to the statement thus boldly made 1 ; 
he does not know that Meroveus was the son of 
Clodion, nor has he anything to say about MerovaBiis 
himself. 2 The residence of Clodion was at Dis- 
pargum, "in agro Thoringorum" the situation of which 
is doubtful : many suppose it to be the same as the 
modern Dysborch in Brabant. 3 It was no doubt in 
the neighbourhood of the Lower Rhine. That the 
power of Clodion was considerable is evinced by the 
magnitude of his undertakings. The growing num- 
bers of the Franks in Gaul, continually increased 
by fresh swarms of settlers from their ancient seats, 
made an extension of their territory not merely 
desirable, but even necessary to their existence. 
Clodion therefore boldly undertook the conquest of 
the Belgica Secunda, a part of which was still in 
possession of the Romans. Having sent forward 
spies to Cambrai, and learned from them that it 

1 Greg. Ttcron. ii. 9. (Bouquet, Rer. Gal. et Franc, torn, ii.) : 
" Ferunt etiam tunc Chlogionem utilem ac nobilissinium in gente 
sua Regem Francorum fuisse, qui apud Dispargum castrum ha- 
bitabat, quod est in termino Thoringorum." 

2 The very name of Merovreus becomes suspicious when con- 
sidered in connection with the doubts of Gregory. It may have 
been invented to explain the name of the Merovingian Dynasty, 
just as we have a king Francio, to account for the name of the 
Frankish nation. (Vide Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred, ii.) The 
reader of Gibbon will hardly suspect the real state of the case. 
" The death of Clodion," he says, " after a reign of twenty years, 
exposed his kingdom to the discord and ambition of his two sons. 
Meroveus the younger," &c. 

3 Vide Bucherii Atrebatis, Belgium Roman. Eccles. et Civile 
(Leodii, 1655, fol.), lib. xv. c. 10. 

64 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

was insufficiently defended, he advanced upon that 
city, and succeeded in taking it. After spending a 
few days within the walls of his new acquisition, he 
marched as far as the river Somme. His progress 
was checked by Aetius and Majorian, who surprised 
him in the neighbourhood of Arras, at a place called 
Helena (Lens), while celebrating a marriage, and 
forced him to retire. 1 Yet at the end of the war, 
the Franks remained in full possession of the coun- 
try which Clodion had overrun ; and the Somme be- 
came the boundary of the Salian land upon the 
south-west, as it continued to be until the time of 
Clovis. 2 

Clodion died in a.d. 448, and was thus saved from 
the equally pernicious alliance or enmity of the ruth- 
less conqueror Attila. 3 This " Scourge of God," as 
he delighted to be called, appeared in Gaul about 
the year 450 a.d., at the head of an innumerable 
host of mounted Huns ; a race so singular in their 
aspect and habits as to seem scarcely human, 
and compared with whom, the wildest Franks and 
Goths must have appeared rational and civilised 

1 Prosp. Chr. p. 50. Sidon. Carm. v. 213. (Sirmondi. Paris, 
1652.) Paneg. Jul., Val. Majoriano : — 

" Post tempore parvo 
Pugnastis pariter, Francus qua Cloco patentes 
Atrebatum terras pervaserat." 

2 Idat. Chron. p. 23. 

3 Prosp. Pith. an. Theod. 22. seq. Olatii (Nicolai) Atila ed. Jo. 
Sambucus in ap. Decad. Per. Ungar. Anton. Bonfinii, Francof. 
1581. Jorn. Get. c. 35. Sigeb. Gembl. ad an. 453. 


The time of Attila's descent upon the Rhine was 
well chosen for the prosecution of his scheme of 
universal dominion. Between the fragment of the 
Roman Empire, governed by Aetius, and the Franks 
under the successors of Clod ion, there was either 
open war or a hollow truce. The succession to the 
chief power in the Salian tribe was the subject of a 
violent dispute between two Frankish princes, the 
elder of whom is supposed by some to have been 
called Merovaeus. We have seen reason to doubt the 
existence of a prince of this name ; and there is no 
evidence that either of the rival candidates was a son 
of Clodion. Whatever their parentage or name may 
have been, the one took part with Attila, and the 
other with the Roman Aetius, on condition, no doubt, 
of having their respective claims allowed and sup- 
ported by their allies. 1 In the bloody and decisive 
battle of the Catalaunian Fields round Chalons, Franks, 
under the name of Leti and Ripuarii, served under 
the so-called Merovseus in the army of Aetius, to- 
gether with Theoderic and his Visigoths. Among 
the forces of Attila another body of Franks was 
arrayed, either by compulsion, or instigated to this 
unnatural course by the fierce hatred of party 
spirit. From the result of the battle of Chalons, we 
must suppose that the ally of Aetius succeeded to the 
throne of Clodion. 

The effects of the invasion of Gaul by Attila were 

1 Sidon. Apoll. Carm. vii. 330. Greg. Turon. ii. 7. Idatii 
Chron. p. 25. 


66 THE FRANKS. [CuAr. II. 

neither great nor lasting, and his retreat left the 
German and Roman parties in much the same con- 
dition as he found them. The Roman Empire 
indeed was at an end in that province, yet the 
valour and wisdom of iEgidius enabled him to 
maintain, as an independent chief, the authority 
which he had faithfully exercised, as Master-General 
of Gaul, under the noble and virtuous Magorian. 1 
The extent of his territory is not clearly defined, but 
it must have been, in part at least, identical with 
that of which his son and successor, Syagrius, was 
deprived by Clovis. Common opinion limits this to 
the country between the Oise, the Marne, and the 
Seine, to which some writers have added Auxerre 
and Troyes. The respect in which iEgidius was 
held by the Franks, as well as his own country- 
men, enabled him to set at defiance the threats and 
machinations of the barbarian Ricimer 2 , who virtu- 
ally ruled at Rome, though in another's name. The 
strongest proof of the high opinion they entertained 
of the merits of iEgidius, is said to have been 
given by the Salians in the reign of their next 
king. The prince, to whom the name Merovaeus 
has been arbitrarily assigned, was succeeded by his 
son Childeric, in A. d. 45 6. 3 The conduct of this 
licentious youth was such as to disgust and alienate 

1 Greg. Turon. ii. 11, 12. Idat. Chron. p. 28. Sidon. Ap. v. 


2 Idat. Chron. p. 26. Sidon. Ap. ii. 360. 

3 Sigeb. Gembl. an. 448. Greg. Turon. ii. 9. 12. Hist. Franc. 
Epit. per Fred. c. 11., Bouq. torn. ii. 


his subjects, who had not yet ceased to value female 
honour, nor adopted the loose manners of the Romans 
and their Gallic imitators. The authority of the 
Salian kings over the fierce warriors of their tribe 
was held by a precarious tenure. The loyalty Avhich 
distinguished the Franks in later times had not yet 
arisen in their minds, and they did not scruple to 
send the corrupter of their wives and daughters into 
ignominious exile. 1 Childeric took refuge with Bis- 
sinus (or Bassinus), king of the Thuringians, a people 
dwelling on the river Unstrut. It was then that 
the Franks, according to the somewhat improbable 
account of Gregory, unanimously chose iEgidius for 
their king, and actually submitted to his rule for the 
space of eight years. 2 At the end of that period, 
returning affection for their native prince, the mere 
love of change, or the machinations of a party, 
induced the Franks to recall Childeric from exile, or, 
at all events, to allow him to return. 3 Whatever 

1 The exile appears, however, to have foreseen that his disgrace 
would be but temporary, since,, as we are told, he obtained a pro- 
mise from his faithful friend Wiomardus to do all in his power to 
soothe his irritated subjects, and to send him the half of a golden 
coin, which they divided between them, as a sign that the 
time was come when he might return in safety. Greg. Turon. ii. 

2 Greg. Turon. ii. 12. Idat. Chron. p. 28. It is very remark- 
able, that the fact of TEgidius, who is well known in Roman 
history, having been king of the Franks for eight years should 
not be referred to by Roman historians. 

3 Hist. Franc. Epit. per. Fred. c. ii. This chronicler tells us that 
the Franks were disgusted by the heavy taxes which iEgidius, ac- 
cording to the treacherous advice of Wiomadus, kept continually 

F 2 

68 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

may have been the cause of his restoration, it does 
not appear to have been the consequence of an 
improvement in his morals. The period of his exile 
had been characteristically employed in the seduction 
of Basina, the wife of his hospitable protector at the 
Thuringian Court. This royal lady, whose character 
may perhaps do something to diminish the guilt of 
Childeric in our eyes, was unwilling to be left behind 
on the restoration of her lover to his native country. 
Scarcely had he re-established his authority when he 
was unexpectedly followed by Basina, whom he 
immediately married. 1 The offspring of this ques- 
tionable alliance was Clovis, who was born in the 
year 46 6. 2 The remainder of Childeric's reign was 
chiefly spent in a struggle with the Visigoths, in 
which Franks and Romans,- under their respective 
leaders, Childeric and iEgidius, were amicably united 
against the common foe. 

We hasten to the reign of Clovis, who, during 

increasing. Wiomadus is also said to have advised wholesale 
murder: " Rebelles exsistunt tibi Franci ; nisi proeceperis ex eis 
plurimos jugulari eorura superbiam non mitigas ! " 

1 The language of Basina on this occasion is, to speak mildly, 
very naive. When asked by Childeric on what account she had 
come from such a distance, she replies : " Novi utilitatem tuarn, 
quod sis valde strenuus ; ideoque veni ut habitem tecum ; nam 
noveris, si in transmarinis partibus aliquem cognovissem utiliorem 
te, expetissem utique cohabitationem ejus." So Gregory of Tours, 
ii. 12. 

- Conf. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. xii. The conception and 
birth of Clovis are related here with fabulous ornament. We have 
a vision of Childeric on the wedding night, and the interpretation 
of Basina, 


a rule of about thirty years, not only united the 
various tribes of Franks under one powerful 
dynasty, and founded a kingdom in Gaul on a broad 
and enduring basis, but made his throne the centre 
of union to by far the greater portion of the whole 
German race. 

When Clovis succeeded his father as king of the 
Salians, at the early age of fifteen, the extent of his 
territory and the number of his subjects were, as we 
know, extremely small ; at his death, he left to his 
successors a kingdom more extensive than that of 
modern France. 

The influence of the grateful partiality discernible 
in the works of Catholic historians and chroniclers 
towards " the Eldest Son of the Church," who secured 
for them the victory over heathens on the one side, 
and heretics on the other, prevents us from looking 
to them for an unbiassed estimate of his character. 
Many of his crimes appeared to be committed 
in the cause of Catholicity itself, and these they 
could hardly see in their proper light. Pagans and 
Arians would have painted him in different colours; 
and had any of their works come down to us, we 
might have sought the truth between the positive of 
partiality and the negative of hatred. But for- 
tunately, while the chroniclers praise his actions in 
the highest terms, they tell us what those actions were, 
and thus compel us to form a very different judg- 
ment from their own. It would not be easy to 
extract from the pages of his greatest admirers the 
slightest evidence of his possessing any qualities 

r 3 

70 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

but those which are necessary to a conqueror. In 
the hands of Providence he was an instrument of 
the greatest good to the country he subdued, inas- 
much as he freed it from the curse of division into 
petty states, and furthered the spread of Christianity 
in the very heart of Europe. But of any word or 
action that could make us admire or love the man, 
there is not a single trace in history. His undeni- 
able courage is debased by a degree of cruelty unusual 
even in his times ; and the consummate skill and 
prudence, which did more to raise him to his high po- 
sition than even his military qualities, are rendered 
odious by the forms they take of unscrupulous false- 
hood, meanness, cunning and hypocrisy. 

It will add to the perspicuity of our brief narrative 
of the conquests of Clovis, if we pause for a moment 
to consider the extent and situation of the different 
portions into which Gaul was divided at his ac- 

There were in all six independent states: 1st, that 
of the Salians; 2nd, that of the Ripuarians ; 3rd, 
that of the Visigoths; 4th, that of the Burgundians ; 
5th, the kingdom of Syagrius ; and, 6th, Amorica 
(by which the whole sea-coast between Seine and 
Loire was then signified. Of the two first we have 
already spoken. The Visigoths held the whole of 
Southern Gaul. Their boundary to the north was 
the river Loire, and to the east the Pagus Vellavus 

The boundary of the Burgundians on the side of 
Roman Gaul, was the Pagus Lingonicus (Upper 


Marne) ; to the west they were bounded by the ter- 
ritory of the Visigoths, as above described. 

The territory still held by the Romans was divided 
into two parts, of which the one was held by 
Syagrius, who, according to common opinion, only 
ruled the country between Oise, Marne, and Seine ; 
to this some writers have added Auxerre, Troyes, and 
Orleans. The other — viz., that portion of Roman 
Gaul not subject to Syagrius — is of uncertain extent. 
Armorica (Bretagne and Maine), was an indepen- 
dent state, inhabited by Britons and Saxons ; but 
what was its form of government is not exactly 
known. It is important to bear these geographical 
divisions in mind, because they coincide with the 
successive Frankish conquests made under Clovis 
and his sons. 

It would be unphilosophical to ascribe to Clovis a 
preconceived plan of making himself master of these 
several independent states, and of not only overthrow- 
ing the sole remaining pillar of the Roman Empire in 
Gaul, but, what was far more difficult, of subduing 
other German tribes, as fierce and independent, and 
in some cases more numerous than his own. In what 
he did, he was merely gratifying a passion for the 
excitements of war and acquisition, and that desire 
of expanding itself to its utmost limits, which is 
natural to every active, powerful, and imperious 
mind. 1 He must indeed have been more than 

1 "Dans les temps barbares" (says M. Guizot, 2ine Essai sur 
FHist. cle France, p. 61. seq.), "comme dans les temps civilises, 

r 4 

72 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

human to foresee, through all the obstacles that lay 
in his path, the career he was destined by Provi- 
dence to run. He was not even master of the whole 
Salian tribe ; and besides the Salians, there were 
other Franks on the Rhine, the Scheldt, the Meuse, 
and the Moselle, in no way inferior to his own 
subjects, and governed by kings of the same family 
as himself. Nor was Syagrius, to whom the 
anomalous power of his father iEgidius had de- 
scended, a despicable foe. His merits, indeed, were 
rather those of an able lawyer and a righteous judge 
than of a warrior ; but he had acquired by his civil 
virtues a reputation which made him an object of 
envy to Clovis, who dreaded perhaps the permanent 
establishment of a Roman dynasty in Gaul. There 
were reasons for attacking Syagrius first, which can 
hardly have escaped the cunning of Clovis, and 
which doubtless guided him in the choice of his 
earliest victim. The very integrity of the noble 
Roman's character was one of these reasons. Had 
Clovis commenced the work of destruction by at- 
tacking his kinsmen Sigebert of Cologne and 
Ragnachar of Cambrai, he would not only have 
received no aid from Syagrius in his unrighteous 
aggression, but might have found him ready to 
oppose it. But against Syagrius it was easy for 
Clovis to excite the national spirit of his brother 
Franks, both in and out of his own territory. In 

c'est par l'activite nee du besoin d'etendre en tous sens son exist- 
ence, son uom, et son empire, que se fait reconnaitre un homme 


such an expedition, even had the kings declined to 
take an active part, he might reckon on crowds of 
volunteers from every Frankish gau. 

As soon therefore as he had emerged from the 
forced inactivity of extreme youth (a period in 
which, fortunately for him, he was left undisturbed 
by his less grasping and unscrupulous neighbours), 
he determined to bring the question of pre emi- 
nence between the Franks and Romans to as early 
an issue as possible. Without waiting for a plau- 
sible ground of quarrel, he challenged Syagrius, more 
Germanico, to the field, that their respective fates 
might be determined by the God of Battles. Rag- 
nachar of Cambrai was solicited to accompany his 
treacherous relative on this expedition, and agreed 
to do so. 1 Chararich, another Frankish prince, whose 
alliance had been looked for, preferred waiting until 
fortune had decided, with the prudent intention of 
siding with the winner, and coming fresh into the 
field in time to spoil the vanquished. 2 

Syagrius was at Soissons, which he had inherited 
from his father, when Clovis, with characteristic 
decision and rapidity, passed through the wood of 
Ardennes, and fell upon him with resistless force. 
The Roman was completely defeated, and the victor, 
having taken possession of Soissons, Rheims, and 
other Roman towns in the Belgica Secunda, extended 
his frontier to the river Loire, the boundary of the 
Visigoths. This battle took place in a. d. 486. 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 27. 2 Ibid. 41. 

74 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IT. 

We know little or nothing of the materials of which 
the Eoman army was composed. If it consisted 
entirely of Gauls, accustomed to depend on Roman 
aid, and destitute of the spirit of. freemen, the ease 
with which Syagrius was defeated will cause us less 
surprise. Having lost all in a single battle, the un- 
fortunate Roman fled for refuge to Toulouse, the 
court of Alaric, king of the Visigoths, who basely 
yielded him to the threats of the youthful conqueror. 1 
But one fate awaited those who stood in the way of 
Clovis : Syagrius was immediately put to death, less 
in anger, than from the calculating policy which 
guided all the movements of the Salian's unfeeling 

During the next ten years after the death of 
Syagrius, there is less to relate of Clovis than might 
be expected from the commencement of his career. 
We cannot suppose that such a spirit was really at 
rest : he was probably nursing his strength, and 
watching his opportunities ; for, with all his impetu- 
osity, he was not a man to engage in an undertaking 
without good assurance of success. 

Almost the only expedition of this inactive period 
of his life, is one recorded in a doubtful passage by 
Gregory of Tours, as having been made against the 
Tongrians. This people lived in the ancient country 
of the Eburones, on the Elbe, and had formerly been 
subjects of his mother Basina. The Tongrians were 

1 Greg. 7W. ii. 27. : " At ille (Alaricus) metuens, ne propter 
eum iram Francorum incurreret, ut Gothorum pavere mos est 
vinctum legatis tradidit." 


defeated, and their territory was, nominally at least, 
incorporated with the kingdom of Clovis. 1 

In the year 496 a. d. the Salians began that career 
of conquest, which they followed up with scarcely 
any intermission until the death of their warrior 

The Alemanni, extending themselves from their 
original seats on the right bank of the Rhine, between 
the Main and the Danube, had pushed forward into 
Germanica Prima, where they came into collision 
with the Frankish subjects of King Sigebert of 
Cologne. Clovis flew to the assistance of his kins- 
man, and defeated the Alemanni in a great battle 
in the neighbourhood of Ziilpich. He then esta- 
blished a considerable number of his Franks in the 
territory of the Alamanni, the traces of whose re- 
sidence are found in the names of Franconia and 

The same year is rendered remarkable in ecclesias- 
tical history by the conversion of Clovis to Christianity. 
In A. d. 493, he had married Clothildis, Chilperic 
the king of Burgundy's daughter, who, being herself 
a Christian, was naturally anxious to turn away her 
warlike spouse from the rude faith of his forefathers. 
The real result of her endeavours it is impossible to 
estimate, but, at all events, she has not received from 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 27. Theoderic, Clovis's son, describes to the 
Franks, at a subsequent period, the horrible cruelties committed 
by the Tungrians, or Thuringians, on the Franks in this war, 
which they are accused of beginning by a savage inroad into the 
Frankish territory. Greg. Tur. iii. 7. 

76 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

history the credit of success. The mere suggestions 
of an affectionate wife would be considered as too 
simple and prosaic a means of accounting for a change 
involving such mighty consequences. The conversion 
of Clovis was so vitally important to the interests 
of the Catholic Church, that the chroniclers of that 
wonder-loving age, profuse in the employment of 
extraordinary means for the smallest ends, could 
never be brought to believe that this great event was 
the result of anything but a miracle of the most 
public and striking character. 

The way in which the convictions of Clovis were 
changed is unknown to us, but there were natural 
agencies at work, and his conversion is not, under the 
circumstances, a thing to excite surprise. According 
to the common belief, however, in the Roman Church, 
it was in the battle of Ztilpich that the heart of 
Clovis, callous to the pious solicitude of his wife, and 
the powerful and alluring influence of the catholic 
ritual, was touched by a special interposition of Pro- 
vidence in his behalf. When the fortune of the 
battle seemed turning against him, he thought of the 
God whom his wife adored, of whose power and 
majesty he had heard so much, and vowed that if he 
escaped the present danger, and came off victorious, 
he would suffer himself to be baptized, and become 
the champion of the Christian Faith. 1 Like another 

1 The whole story rests on a slender foundation, for Gregory 
of Tours, though he both describes the battle of Zulpich, and 
speaks of the conversion of Clovis as having taken place during 
a battle, does not connect the two events, and assigns no date 


Constantine, he saw written on the face of Heaven 
that his prayer was heard ; he conquered, and fulfilled 
his promise at Christmas in the same year, when 
he was baptized by Remigius at Rheims, with three 
thousand of his followers. 1 

The sincerity of Clovis's conversion has been called 
in question for many reasons, — such as the uns us- 
ability of his subsequent life to Christian principles, 
— but chiefly on the ground of the many political 
advantages to be derived from a public profession 
of the Catholic Faith. We are too ready with 
such explanations of the actions of distinguished 
characters, too apt to forget that politicians are 
also men, and to overlook the very powerful in- 
fluences which lie nearer to their hearts than even 
political calculation. A spirit was abroad in the 
world, drawing men away from the graves of a dead 

at all to the nUter. Greg. Tur. ii. 30. : " Regina vero," he says, 
" non cessabat praedicare regi, ut Deum verura cognosceret . 
sed nullo modo ad haec credenda poterat commoveri, donee tandem 
aliquando bellum contra Alamannos commoveretur." Ibid. ii. 29. 
Clovis, according to Gregory, replies to the queen's arguments : 
" Deorum nostrorum jussione cuncta creantur et prodeunt, Deus 
vero vester nihil posse manifestatur, et quod magis est> nee de 
Deorum genere probatur. 77 Unfortunately for Clothildis's ar- 
gument, her first child, who had been baptized in the Christian 
Church, died, and Clovis ascribed its early death to its Christian 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 30. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. xxi. Greg. 
Tur. ii. 31. It was on this occasion that St. Remigius is said 
to have used the words : " Mitis depone colla Sicamber ; adora 
quod incendisti, incende quod adorasti ;" from which we may infer 
that the distinctive names of the several tribes which went to form 
the Frankish League were not yet forgotten. 

78 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

faith to the life and light of the Gospel, — a spirit 
which not even the coldest and sternest heart could 
altogether resist. There was something, too, pecu- 
liarly imposing in the attitude of the Christian 
Church at that period. All else in the Roman 
world seemed dying of mere weakness and old age ~ 
the Christian Church was still in the vigour of youth, 
and its professors were animated by indomitable per- 
severance and boundless zeal. All else fell down in 
terror before the Barbarian conqueror — the fabric of 
the Church seemed indestructible, and its ministers 
stood erect in his presence, as if depending for 
strength and aid upon a power, which Avas the more 
terrible, because indefinite in its nature and uncer- 
tain in its mode of operation. 

Nor were there wanting to the Catholic Church, 
sven at that stage of its development, those external 
neans of influence which tell with peculiar force 
lpon the barbarous and untutored mind. The em- 
perors of the Roman world had reared its temples, 
idorned its shrines, and regulated its services, in a 
manner which seemed to them best suited to the 
majesty of Heaven and their own. Its altars were 
served by men distinguished by their learning, and 
by that indestructible dignity of deportment, which is 
derived from conscious superiority. The praises of 
God were chaunted forth in well-chosen words 
and impressive tones, or sung in lofty strains by 
tutored voices ; while incense rose to the vaulted 
aisle, as if to bear the prayers of the kneeling multi- 
tude to the very gates of Paradise. 

Chap. II.] HIS MOTIVES. 79 

And Clovis was as likely to be worked upon by 
such means as the meanest of his followers. We must 
not suppose that the discrepancy between his Chris- 
tian profession and his public and private actions, 
which we discern so clearly, was equally evident 
to himself. How should it be so ? His own con- 
science was not specially enlightened beyond the 
measure of his age. The bravest warriors of his 
nation hailed him as a patriot and hero, and the 
ministers of God assured him that his victories were 
won in the service of Truth and Heaven. It is always 
dangerous to judge of the sincerity of men's religious 
— perhaps we should say theological — convictions 
by the tenor of their moral conduct, and this even in 
our own age and nation; but far more so in respect 
to men of other times and countries, at a different 
stage of civilisation and religious development, at 
which the scale of morality was not only lower, but 
differently graduated from our own. 

The conscience of a Clovis remained undisturbed 
in the midst of deeds whose enormity makes us 
shudder ; and, on the other hand, how trivial in our 
eyes are some of those offences which loaded him 
with the heaviest sense of guilt ! The eternal laws 
of the God of justice and mercy might be broken 
with impunity ; and what we should call the basest 
treachery and the most odious cruelty, employed 
to compass the destruction of an heretical or pagan 
enemy ; but woe to him who offended St. Martin, or 
laid a finger on the property of the meanest of his 
servants ! When Clovis was seeking to gratify his 

80 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

lust of power, he believed, no doubt, that he was at 
the same time fighting under the banner of Christ, and 
destroying the enemies of God. And no wonder, for 
many a priest and bishop thought the same, and told 
him what they thought. 

We are, however, far from affirming that the poli- 
tical advantages to be gained from an open avowal 
of the Catholic Faith at this juncture escaped the 
notice of so astute a mind as that of Clovis. No one 
was more sensible of those advantages than he was. 
The immediate consequences were indeed apparently 
disastrous. He was himself fearful of the effect 
which his change of religion might have upon his 
Franks, and we are told that many of them left him 
and joined his kinsman Eagnarich. 1 But the ill 
effects, though immediate, were slight and transient, 
while the good results went on accumulating from 
year to year. In the first place, his baptism into the 
Catholic Church conciliated for him the zealous affec- 
tion of his Gallo-Roman subjects, whose number and 
wealth, and, above all, whose superior knowledge and 
intelligence, rendered their aid of the utmost value. 
With respect to his own Franks, we are justified in 
supposing that, removed as they were from the 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 31. Gregory represents Clovis as saying to 
St. Remigius : "Libenter te, sanctissime Pater, audiam, sed restat 
unum, quod populus qui me sequitur, 7ion patitur relinquere Deos 
suos." Hincmar, Vita S. Remigii^ Acta Sanct. Octob. t. i. p. 94. : 
" Multi denique de Francorum exercitu nec-dum ad fidem conversi 
cum Regis parente Raganario ultra Summam fluvium aliquamdiu 


sacred localities with which their faith was intimately 
connected, they either viewed the change with in- 
difference, or, wavering between old associations and 
present influences, needed only the example of the 
king to decide their choice, and induce them to enlist 
under the banner of the Cross. 

The German neighbours of Clovis had either pre- 
served their ancient faith or adopted the Arian 
heresy. His conversion therefore was advantageous 
or disadvantageous to him, as regarded them, accord- 
ing to the objects he had in view. Had he really 
desired to live with his compatriot kings on terms 
of equality and friendship, his reception into a hostile 
Church would certainly not have furthered his views. 
But nothing was more foreign to his thoughts than 
friendship and alliance with any of the neighbouring 
tribes. His desire was to reduce them all to a state 
of subjection to himself. He had the genuine spirit 
of the conqueror, which cannot brook the sight of 
independence ; and his keen intellect and unflinching 
boldness enabled him to see his advantages and to 
turn them to the best account. 

Even in those countries in which Heathenism or 
Arian Christianity prevailed, there was generally a 
zealous and united community of Catholic Christians 
(including all the Romance inhabitants), who, being 
outnumbered and sometimes persecuted, were inclined 
to look for aid abroad. Clovis became by his con- 
version the object of hope and attachment to such a 
party in almost every country on the continent of 
Europe. He had the powerful support of the whole 


82 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

body of the Catholic clergy, in whose hearts the 
interests of their Church far outweighed all other con- 
siderations. In other times and lands (in our own 
for instance) the spirit of loyalty and the love of 
country have often sufficed to counteract the influence 
of theological opinions, and have made men patriots 
in the hour of trial, when their spiritual allegiance to 
an alien head tempted them to be traitors. But what 
patriotism could Gallo-Romans feel, who for ages had 
been the slaves of slaves ? or what loyalty to barbarian 
oppressors, whom they despised as well as feared ? 

The happy effects of Clovis's conversion were not 
long in showing themselves. In the very next year 
after that event (a. d. 497) the Armoricans, inha- 
biting the country between the Seine and Loire, who 
had stoutly defended themselves against the heathen 
Franks, submitted with the utmost readiness to the 
royal convert ,whom bishops delighted to honour ; and 
in almost every succeeding struggle the advantages 
he derived from the strenuous support of the Catholic 
party become more and more clearly evident. 

In a. d. 500 Clovis reduced the Burgundians to a 
state of semi-dependence, after a fierce and bloody 
battle with Gundobald, their king, at Dijon on the 
Ousche. In this conflict, as in almost every other, 
Clovis attained his ends in a great measure by turning 
to account the dissensions of his enemies. Gundobald 
had called upon his brother Godegisil, who ruled over 
one division of their tribe, to aid him in repelling the 
attack of the Franks. The call was answered, in 
appearance at least ; but in the decisive struggle 


Godegisil, according to a secret understanding, de- 
serted with all his forces to the enemy. Gundobald 
was of course defeated, and submitted to conditions 
which, however galling to his pride and patriotism, 
could not have been very severe, since we find him 
immediately afterwards punishing the treachery of 
his brother, whom he besieged in the city of Vienne, 
and put to death in an Arian Church. 1 

The circumstances of the times, rather than the 
moderation of Clovis, prevented him from calling 
Gundobald to account. A far more arduous struggle 
was at hand, which needed all the wily Salian's re- 
sources of power and policy to bring to a successful 
issue — the struggle with the powerful king and people 
of the Visigoths, whose immediate neighbour he had 
become after the voluntary submission of the Anno* 
ricans in a. d. 497. The valour and conduct of their 
renowned king Euric 2 had put the Western Goths in 
full possession of all that portion of Gaul which lay 
between the rivers Loire and Rhone, together with 
nearly the whole of Spain. That distinguished 
monarch had lately been succeeded by his son Ala- 
ric II., who was now in the flower of youth. It was in 
the war with this ill-starred prince — the most diffi- 
cult and doubtful in which he had been engaged — 
that Clovis experienced the full advantages of his 
recent change of faith. King Euric, who was an 
Arian, wise and great as he appears to have been in 

1 Greg. Tur. iL 32, 33. Greg. Epit. Fredeg. 22. 

2 Greg. Tur. ii. 25. Conf. Jornandes, Getica, 4.5. 

o 2 

84 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IL 

many respects, had alienated the affections of mul- 
titudes of his people by persecuting the Catholic 
minority x ; and though the same charge does not 
appear to lie against Alaric, it is evident that 
the hearts of his orthodox subjects beat with no true 
allegiance towards their heretical king. The baptism 
of Clovis had turned their eyes towards him, as one 
who would not only free them from the persecution 
of their theological enemies, but procure for them 
and their Church a speedy victory and a secure 
predominance. The hopes they had formed, and the 
aid they were ready to afford him, were not unknown 
to Clovis, whose eager rapacity was only checked by 
the consideration of the part which his brother-in-law 
Theoderic, King of the Ostrogoths, was likely to 
take in the matter. This great and enlightened 
Goth, whose refined magnificence renders the con- 
temptuous sense in which we use the term Gothic 
more than usually inappropriate, was ever ready to 
mediate between kindred tribes of Germans, whom on 
every suitable occasion he exhorted to live in unity, 
mindful of their common origin. He is said on this 
occasion to have brought about a meeting between 
Clovis and Alaric on a small island in the Loire in 
the neighbourhood of Amboise. 2 The story is very 
doubtful, to say the least. Had he done so much, he 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 25. (He is accused of blocking up the paths 
which led to the Churches with thorns) : " Scilicet ut raritas in- 
grediendi oblivionem faceret fidei." Ibid. ii. 36. : " Multi jam tunc 
ex Galliis habere Francos dominos sumino desiderio cupiebant." 

2 Hist. Generale de Languedoc, v. 19. 


would probably have done more, and have shielded 
his youthful kinsman with his strong right arm. 
Whatever he did was done in vain. The Frankish 
conqueror knew his own advantages and determined 
to use them to the utmost. He received the aid not 
only of his kinsman Sigebert of Cologne, who sent an 
army to his support under Chararich, but of the king 
of the Burgundians, who was also a Catholic. With 
an army thus united by a common faith, inspired by 
religious zeal, and no less so by the Frankish love of 
booty, Clovis marched to almost certain victory over 
an inexperienced leader and a kingdom divided 
against itself. 

It is evident, from the language of Gregory of 
Tours, that this conflict between the Franks and 
Visigoths was regarded by the orthodox party of his 
own and preceding ages as a religious war, on which, 
humanly speaking, the prevalence of the Catholic 
or the Arian creed in Western Europe depended. 
Clovis did everything in his power to deepen this im- 
pression. He could not, he said, endure the thought 
that " those Arians" held a part of his beautiful 
Gaul. 1 As he passed through the territory of Tours, 
which was supposed to be under the peculiar protection 
of St. Martin, he was careful to preserve the strictest 
discipline among his soldiers, that he might further 
conciliate the Church and sanctify his undertaking. 2 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 37. : Ci Valde moleste fero quod hi Ariani 
partem teneant Galliarum." 

2 One of Clo vis's soldiers took away some hay from a peasant 
who lived in the lands belonging to St. Martin's church. " ' Quo 

G 3 


On his arrival at the city of Tours, he publicly dis- 
played his reverence for the patron saint, and received 
the thanks and good wishes of a whole chorus of 
priests assembled in St. Martin's Church. He was 
guided (according to one of the legends by which 
his progress has been so profusely adorned) through 
the swollen waters of the river Vienne by " a hind of 
wonderful magnitude ; " and, as he approached the 
city of Poitiers, a pillar of fire (whose origin we may 
trace, as suits our views, to the favour of heaven or 
the treachery of man) shone forth from the cathedral, 
to give him the assurance of success, and to throw 
light upon his nocturnal march. 1 The Catholic 
bishops in the kingdom of Alaric were universally 
favourable to the cause of Clovis 2 , and several of them, 
who had not the patience to postpone the manifesta- 
tion of their sympathies, were expelled by Alaric from 
their sees. 3 The majority indeed made a virtue of 
necessity, and prayed continually and loudly, if not 
sincerely, for their lawful monarch. Perhaps they had 
even in that age learned to appreciate the efficacy of 
mental reservation. 

Conscious of his own weakness, Alaric retired before 

dicto citius gladio peremtoj ait, 'et ubi erit spes victoriae, si 
beatus Martinus offenditur ? ' " — Greg. Tur. ii. 37. 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 37. ; " . . . pharus ignea de Basilica S. Hilarii 
egressa. . . ." 

2 Vid. Ep. Aviti Episc. Viennens. Chlodovecho, ap. Max. Bib. 
vet. Patrum, torn. ix. p. 1677. 

3 Greg. Tur. ii. 36. : " Quia desiderium tuum est ut Francorum 
dominatio possideat terrain banc," said the Gotbs who deprived 
Quintianus, Bishop of Rodez. 


his terrible and implacable foe, in the vain hope of 
receiving assistance from the Ostrogoths. He halted 
at last in the plains of Vougl6, behind Poitiers, but 
even then rather in compliance with the wishes of his 
soldiers than from his own deliberate judgment. His 
soldiers, drawn from a generation as yet unacquainted 
with war, and full of that overweening confidence 
which results from inexperience, were eager to meet 
the enemy. Treachery, also, was at work to prevent 
him from adopting the only means of safety, which 
lay in deferring as long as possible the too unequal 
contest. The Franks came on with their usual impe- 
tuosity, and with a well-founded confidence in their 
own prowess ; and the issue of the battle was in ac- 
cordance with the auspices on either side. Clovis, 
no less strenuous in actual fight than wise and 
cunning in council, exposed himself to every danger, 
and fought hand to hand with Alaric himself. Yet 
the latter was not slain in the field, but in the dis- 
orderly flight into which the Goths were quickly 
driven. 1 The victorious Franks pursued them as far 
as Bordeaux, where Clovis passed the winter, while 
Theocleric, his son, was overrunning Auvergne, 
Quincy, and Rovergne. The Goths, whose new king 
was a minor, made no further resistance ; and in the 
following year the Salian chief took possession of the 
royal treasure at Toulouse. 2 He also took the town 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 37. : tC Cumque secundum consuetudinem Gothi 
terga vertissent." Greg. Epit. per Fredeg. 25. 

2 Ibid. : "Cui (Clodoveo) Dorninus tan tarn gratiam tribuit, ut in 
ejus contemplatione rauri sponte conruerent." 

g 4 

88 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

of Angouleme, at the capture of which he was doubly 
rewarded for his services to the Church, for not only 
did the inhabitants of that place rise in his favour 
against the Visigothic garrison, but the very walls, 
like those of Jericho, fell down at his approach ! ! 

a.d. 508. A short time after these events, Clovis 
received the titles and dignity of Roman Patricius 
and Consul from the Greek Emperor Anastasius ; who 
appears to have been prompted to this act more by 
motives of jealousy and hatred towards Theoderic the 
Ostrogoth, than by any love he bore the restless and 
encroaching Frank. 2 The meaning of these obsolete 
titles, as applied to those who stood in no direct rela- 
tion to either division of the Roman Empire, has 
never been sufficiently explained. We are at first 
surprised that successful warriors and powerful 
kings like Clovis, Pepin, and Charlemagne himself, 
should condescend to accept such empty honours at 
the hands of the miserable eunuch-ridden monarchs 
of the East. That the Byzantine Emperors should 
affect a superiority over contemporary sovereigns is 
intelligible enough ; the weakest idiot among them, 

1 In the Gesta Francor. xvii. (ap. Bouquet, ii. p. 555.) we are 
told that Clovis returned to Tours and enriched the church of St. 
Martin with many costly presents. Among other things he had 
given a horse, which he wished to repurchase, and sent 100 solids 
for that purpose. " Quibus datis equus ille nulla tenus se movit. 
At ille (Chlodoveus) ait : ' Date illis alios centum solidos ; ' cumquc 
alios solidos dedissent, statim ipse equus solutus abiit. Tunc 
cum laetitia Rex ait : ' Vere B. Martinus bonus est in auxilio, 
sed carus in negotio.'" 

2 Greg. Tur. ii. 38. 


who lived at the mercy of his women and his slaves, 
had never resigned one tittle of his pretensions to that 
universal empire which an Augustus and a Trajan 
once possessed. But whence the acquiescence of 
Clovis and his great successors in this arrogant as- 
sumption ? We may best account for it by remarking 
how long the prestige of power survives the strength 
that gave it. The sun of Rome was set, but the 
twilight of her greatness still rested on the world. 
The German kin^s and warriors received with 
pleasure, and wore with pride, a title which brought 
them into connection with that imperial city, of 
whose universal dominion, of whose skill in arms 
and arts, the traces lay everywhere around them. 

Nor was it without some solid advantages in the cir- 
cumstances in which Clovis was placed. He ruled 
over a vast population, which had not long ceased to be 
subjects of the Empire, and still rejoiced in the Roman 
name. He fully appreciated their intellectual supe* 
riority, and had already experienced the value of their 
assistance. Whatever, therefore, tended to increase 
his personal dignity in their eyes (and no doubt the 
solemn proclamation of his Roman titles had this 
tendency) was rightly deemed by him of no small im- 

In the same year that he was invested with the 
diadem and purple robe in the church of St. Martin 
at Tours the encroaching Franks had the southern 
and eastern limits of their kingdom marked out 
for them by the powerful hand of Theoderic 
the Great. The brave but peace-loving Goth had 

90 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IT, 

trusted too much to his influence with Clovis, and 
had hoped to the last to save the unhappy Alaric, 
by warning and mediation. The slaughter of the 
Visigoths, the death of Alaric himself, the fall 
of Angouleme and Toulouse, the advance of the 
Franks upon the Rhone, where they were now be- 
sieging Aries, had effectually undeceived him. He 
now prepared to bring forward the only arguments 
to which the ear of a Clovis is ever open, — the 
battle-cry of a superior army. His faithful Ostro- 
goths were summoned to meet in the month of June, 
a. d. 508, and he placed a powerful army under the 
command of Eva (Ibba or Hebba), who led his forces 
into Gaul over the southern Alps. The Franks and 
Burgundians, who were investing Aries and Car- 
cassonne, raised the siege and retired, but whether 
without or in consequence of a battle, is rendered 
doubtful by the conflicting testimony of the 
annalists. The subsequent territorial position of 
the combatants, however, favours the account that a 
battle did take place, in which Clovis and his allies 
received a most decided and bloody defeat. 1 

The check thus given to the extension of his 
kingdom at the expense of other German nations, 
and the desire perhaps of collecting fresh strength 
for a more successful struggle hereafter, seem to 

1 Jornandes, c. 58., speaks of a battle in which the Franks and 
their allies lost 30,000 men : " Nunquam Gothus Francis cessit, 
dum viveret Theodericus. . . . Non minus tropliseum de 
Francis per Hibbam suum Comitem in Galliis acquisivit plus 
xxx millibus Francorum in proelio caesis." 


have induced Clovis to turn his attention to the 
destruction of his Merovingian kindred. The 
manner in which he effected his purpose is related 
with a fulness which naturally excites suspicion. 
But though it is easy to detect both absurdity and 
inconsistency in many of the romantic details with 
which Gregory has furnished us, Ave see no reason 
to deny to his statements a foundation of historical 

Clovis was still but one of several Frankish kings; 
and of these Sigebert of Cologne, king of the Ri- 
puarians, was little inferior to him in the extent of 
his dominions and the number of his subjects. But 
in other respects — in mental activity and bodily 
prowess — " the lame" Sigebert was no match for his 
Salian brother. 1 The other Frankish rulers were, Cha- 
rarich, of whom mention has been made in connection 
with Syagrius, and Ragnachar (or Ragnachas), who 
held his court at Cambrai. The kingdom of Sigebert 
extended along both banks of the Rhine, from Mayence 
down to Cologne ; to the west along the Moselle as 
far as Treves ; and on the east to the river Fulda 
and the borders of Thuringia. The Franks who 
occupied this country are supposed to have taken 
possession of it in the reign of Valentinian III., when 
Mayence, Cologne, and Treves, were conquered by a 
host of Ripuarians. Sigebert, as we have seen, 
had come to the aid of Clovis, in two very important 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 37. He was lame from a wound received at 
the battle of Ziilpich. 

92 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

battles with the Alemanni and the Visigoths, and 
had shown himself a ready and faithful friend when- 
ever his co-operation was required. But gratitude 
was not included among the graces of the cham- 
pion of Catholicity, who only waited for a suitable 
opportunity to deprive his ally of throne and life. 
The present juncture was favourable to his wishes, 
and enabled him to rid himself of his benefactor 
in a manner peculiarly suited to his taste. An 
attempt to conquer the kingdom of Cologne by force 
of arms would have been but feebly seconded by 
his own subjects, and would have met with a stout 
resistance from the Ripuarians, who were conscious 
of no inferiority to the Salian tribe. His efforts 
were therefore directed to the destruction of the 
royal house, the downfall of which was hastened by 
internal divisions. Clotaire (or Clotarich), the ex- 
pectant heir of Sigebert, weary of hope deferred, 
gave a ready ear to the hellish suggestions of Clovis, 
who urged him, by the strongest appeals to his 
ambition and cupidity, to the murder of his father. 1 
Sigebert was slain by his own son in the Buchonian 
Forest near Fulda. The wretched parricide en- 
deavoured to secure the further connivance of his 
tempter, by offering him a share of the blood-stained 
treasure he had acquired. But Clovis, whose part 
in the transaction was probably unknown, affected 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 40. : " Cum autem Chlodovechus Rex apud 
Parisios moraretur, misit clam ad filium Sigiberti, dicens, 'Ecce 
pater tuus senuit, et pede debili claudicat. Si ille, inquit, morere- 
tur, recte tibi cum amicitia nostra regnum illius redderetur.' 


a feeling of horror at the unnatural crime, and 
procured the immediate assassination of Clotaire ; 
an act which rid him of a rival, silenced an em- 
barrassing accomplice, and tended rather to raise 
than to lower him in the opinion of the Ripuarians. 
It is not surprising, therefore, that when Clovis 
proposed himself as the successor of Sigebert, and 
promised the full recognition of all existing rights, 
his offer should be joyfully accepted. In a. d. 509 
he was elected king by the Ripuarians, and raised 
upon a shield in the city of Cologne, according to the 
Frankish custom, amid general acclamation. 

" And thus/' sa}^s Gregory of Tours, in the same 
chapter in which he relates the twofold murder of 
his kindred, " God daily prostrated his enemies before 
him and increased his kingdom, because he walked 
before him with an upright heart, and did what was 
pleasing in his eyes ! " x — so completely did his services 
to the Catholic Church conceal his moral deformities 
from the eyes of even the best of the ecclesiastical 

To the destruction of his next victim, Chararich, 
whose power was far less formidable than that of 
Sigebert, he was impelled by vengeance as well as 
ambition. That cautious prince, instead of joining 
the other Franks in their attack upon Syagrius, had 
stood aloof and waited upon fortune. Yet we can 
hardly attribute the conduct of Clovis towards him 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 40. . " Prosttrnebat enim quotidie Deus hostes 
ejus sub manu ipsius, et augebat regnura ejus, eo quod arabularet 
recto corde coram eo, et faceret quae placita erant in oculis ejus." 

94 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

chiefly to revenge, for his most faithful ally had been 
his earliest victim ; and friend and foe were alike to 
him, if they did but cross the path of his ambition. 
After getting possession of Chararich and his son, by 
tampering with their followers, Clovis compelled 
them to cut off their royal locks and become priests; 
subsequently, however, he caused them to be put to 

Ragnachar of Cambrai, whose kingdom lay to the 
north of the Somme, and extended through Flanders 
and Artois, might have proved a more formidable 
antagonist, had he not become unpopular among his 
own subjects by the disgusting licentiousness of his 
manners. l The account which Gregory gives of the 
manner in which his ruin was effected is more curious 
than credible, and adds the charge of swindling to the 
black list of crimes recorded against the man who 
" walked before God with an upright heart." Ac- 
cording to the historian, Clovis bribed the followers 
of Ragnachar with armour of gilded iron, which they 
mistook, as he intended they should, for gold. 
Having thus crippled by treachery the strength of 
his enemy, Clovis led an army over the Somme, for 
the purpose of attacking him in his own territory. 
Ragnachar prepared to meet him, but was betrayed by 
his own soldiers and delivered into the hands of the 
invader. Clovis, with facetious cruelty, reproached 
the fallen monarch for having disgraced their common 
family by suffering himself to be bound, and then 

1 Hincmar, Vit. S. Eemig. Acta Sanctor. i. p. 149. 


split his skull with an axe. The same absurd charge 
was brought against Kichar, the brother of Ragnachar, 
and the same punishment inflicted on him. A third 
brother was put to death at Mans. 

Gregory refers, though not by name, to other kings 
of the same family, who were all destroyed by Clovis. 
" Having killed many other kings," he says, u who 
were his kinsmen, because he feared they might de- 
prive him of his power, he extended his kingdom 
through the whole of Gaul." He also tells us that 
the royal hypocrite, having summoned a general 
assembly, complained before it, with tears in his eyes, 
that he was " alone in the world." " Alas, for me ! " 
he said, u I am left as an alien among strangers, and 
have no relations who can assist me." This he did, 
according to Gregory, " not from any real love of his 
kindred, or from remorse at the thought of his crimes, 
but that he might find out any more relations and 
put them also to death." 1 

Clovis died at Paris, in a. d. 511, in the forty- 
fifth year of his age and the thirtieth of his active, 
blood-stained, and eventful reign. He lived there- 
fore only five years after the decisive battle of 


Did we not know, from the judgment he passes on 
other characters in his history, that Gregory of Tours 
was capable of appreciating the nobler and gentler 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 41, 42, 43. We are here reminded of the sen- 
timental Frenchman, who, having been condemned to death for the 
murder of his father and mother, besought the judge to have pity 
on a poor orphan. 

96 THE FRANKS. [Chap. II. 

qualities of our nature, we might easily imagine, as 
we read what he says of Clovis, that, Christian bishop 
as he was, he had an altogether different standard of 
right and wrong from ourselves. Not a single 
virtuous or generous action has the panegyrist found 
to record of his favoured hero, while all that he does 
relate of him tends to deepen our conviction that 
this favourite of Heaven, in whose behalf miracles 
were freely worked, whom departed saints led on 
to victory, and living ministers of God delighted to 
honour, was quite a phenomenon of evil in the moral 
world, from his combining in himself the opposite 
and apparently incompatible vices of the meanest 
treachery, and the most audacious wickedness. 

We can only account for this amazing obliquity of 
moral vision in such a man as Gregory, by ascribing 
it to the extraordinary value attached in those times 
(and would that we could say in those times only) to 
external acts of devotion, and to every service ren- 
dered to the Roman Church. If, in far happier ages 
than those of which we speak, the most polluted con- 
sciences have purchased consolation and even hope, by 
building churches, endowing monasteries, and paying 
reverential homage to the dispensers of God's mercy, 
can we wonder that the extraordinary services of a 
Clovis to Catholic Christianity should 'cover even his 
foul sins as with a cloak of snow ? 

He had, indeed, without the slightest provocation, 
deprived a noble and peaceable neighbour of his power 
and life. He had treacherously murdered his royal 
kindred, and deprived their children of their birth- 


right. He had on all occasions shown himself the 
heartless ruffian, the greedy conqueror, the blood- 
thirsty tyrant ; but by his conversion he had led the 
way to the triumph of Catholicism ; he had saved 
the Roman Church from the Scylla and Charybdis of 
Heresy and Paganism, planted it on a rock in the 
very centre of Europe, and fixed its doctrines and 
traditions in the hearts of the conquerors of the 

Other reasons, again, may serve to reconcile the 
politician to his memory. The importance of the task 
which he performed (though from the basest motives), 
and the influence of his reign on the destinies of 
Europe can hardly be overrated. He founded the 
monarchy on a firm and enduring basis. He levelled, 
with a strong though bloody hand, the barriers which 
separated Franks from Franks, and consolidated a 
number of isolated and hostile tribes into a powerful 
and united nation. It is true, indeed, that this unity 
was soon disturbed by divisions of a different nature ; 
yet the idea of its feasibility and desirableness was 
deeply fixed in the national mind ; a return to it 
was often aimed at, and sometimes accomplished. 


98 THE FRANKS. [Chap. 111. 



A.D. 511 — 561. 

There can be no stronger evidence of the strength 
and consistency which the royal authority had at- 
tained in the hands of Clovis, than the peaceful and 
undisputed succession of his sons to the vacant throne. 
It would derogate from our opinion of the political 
sagacity of Clovis, were we to attribute to his 
personal wishes the partition of his kingdom among 
his four sons. We have no account, moreover, of any 
testamentary dispositions made by him to this effect, 
and are justified in concluding that the division took 
place in accordance with the general laws of inhe- 
ritance which then prevailed among the Germans. 
However clearly he may have foreseen the disastrous 
consequences of destroying the unity which it had 
been one object of his life to effect, his posthu- 
mous influence would hardly have sufficed to recon- 
cile his younger sons to their own exclusion, sup- 
ported as they would naturally be by the national 
sympathy in the unusual hardship of their lot. 

Of the four sons of Clovis, Theoderic (Dietrich, 
Thierry), Clodomir, Childebert, and Clotar (Clotaire), 


the eldest, who was then probably about twenty-four 
years of age, was the son of an unknown mother, and 
the rest, the offspring of the Burgundian princess 
Clothildis. The first use they made of the royal 
power which had descended to them was to divide 
the empire into four parts ; in which division, though 
Gregory describes them as sharing " aequa lance," l 
the eldest son appears to have had the lion's share. 2 
We should in vain endeavour to understand the prin- 
ciples on which this partition was made, and it is no 
easy matter to mark the limits of the several kingdoms. 
Theoderic, King of Austrasia (orMetz), for example, 
obtained the whole of the Frankish territories which 
bordered on the Rhine, and also some provinces in 
the south of Gaul. His capital cities were Metz and 
Itheims, from the former of which his kingdom took 
its name. Clodomir had his residence at Orleans, 
Childebert at Paris, and Clotaire at Soissons ; and 
these three cities were considered as the capitals of the 
three divisions of the empire over which they ruled. 3 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 1. 

2 This may be explained by supposing that Theoderic, in the 
military expeditions he conducted during his father's reign, ac- 
quired land on his own account. 

3 Clodomir had the central parts of the modern France, an- 
swering nearly to Beance, Anjou, Touraine and Berri. Childe- 
bert had the lands along the sea from modern Picardy to the 
Pyrenees, with the exception of Lower Bretagne, which was still 
in a semi-dependent state. Clotaire's kingdom lay between 
Normandy, Champagne, the sea, and the Scheldt. Theoderic 
had all the possessions of Clovis along the Rhine, Moselle, and 
Meuse ; also the Belgica Prima (the territory about Treves, 
Metz, Toul, and Verdun), and a large pnrt of Belgica Secnnda, 

n 2 

100 THE FRANKS. [Chap. III. 

The exact position and limits of their respective ter- 
ritories cannot be defined with any certainty, but we 
may fairly surmise, from the position of the towns 
above mentioned, that the middle part of Neustria 
belonged to the kingdom of Paris, the southern part 
to Orleans, and the north-eastern to Soissons. 

The kingdom of Theoderic, as will be seen by 
a reference to the map, corresponded in a great 
measure with the region subsequently called Aus- 
trasia (Eastern Land) in contradistinction to Neu- 
stria, which included the more recently acquired 
possessions of the Franks. These terms are so 
frequently used in the subsequent history, and the 
distinction they denote was so strongly marked and 
has been so permanent, that an explanation of them 
cannot but be useful to the reader. 

It is conjectured by Luden, with great probability, 
that the Ripuarians were originally called the Eastern 
people to distinguish them from the Salian Franks 
who lived to the west. But when the old home of the 
conquerors on the right bank of the Rhine was united 
with their new settlements in Gaul, the latter, as it 
would seem, were called Neustria or Neustrasia (New 
Lands); while the term Austrasia came to denote 
the original seats of the Franks, on what we now call 
the German bank of the Rhine. The most important 
difference between thein (a difference so great as to 
lead to their permanent separation into the kingdoms 

or the country about Rheims and Chalons-sur-Marne ; also a 
part of Aquitania, including the modern Albigeois, Overci, and 


of France and Germany by the treaty of Verdun) was 
this, that in Neustria the Frankish element was 
quickly absorbed by the mass of Gallo-Romanism by 
which it was surrounded ; while in Austrasia, which 
included the ancient seats of the Frankish conquerors, 
the German element was wholly predominant. 

The import of the word Austrasia (Austria, Aus- 
trifrancia) is very fluctuating. In its widest sense it 
was used to denote all the countries incorporated into 
the Frankish Empire, or even held in subjection to 
it, in which the German language and population 
prevailed ; in this acceptation it included therefore 
the territory of the Alemanni, Bavarians, Thurin- 
oians, and even that of the Saxons and Frises. In its 
more common and proper sense it meant that part 
of the territory of the Franks themselves which was 
not included in Neustria. It was subdivided into 
Upper Austrasia on the Moselle, and Lower Austra- 
sia on the Rhine and Meuse. 

Neustria (or, in the fulness of the Monkish La- 
tinity, Neustrasia) was bounded on the north by the 
ocean, on the south by the Loire, and on the south- 
west towards Burgundy by a line which, beginning 
below Gien on the Loire, ran through the rivers 
Loing and Yonne, not far from their sources, and 
passing north of Auxerre and south of Troyes, 
joined the river Aube above Arcis. The western 
boundary line again by which Neustria was separated 
from Austrasia, commencing at the river Aube, 
crossed the Marne to the east of Chateau Thierry, 

H 3 

102 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IIT. 

and passing through the rivers Aisne and Oise, and 
round the sources of the Somme, left Cambrai on the 
east, and reached the Scheldt, which it followed to 
its mouth. 

The tide of conquest had not reached its height 
at the death of Clovis. Even in that marauding age 
the Franks were conspicuous among the German races 
for their love of warlike adventure ; and the union of 
all their different tribes under one martial leader, who 
kept them almost perpetually in the field, gave them 
a strength which none of their neighbours were able 
to resist. The partition of the kingdom afforded in- 
deed a favourable opportunity to the semi-dependent 
states of throwing off the yoke which Clovis had im- 
posed ; but neither the Burgundians nor the Visigoths 
were in a condition to make the attempt, and Theo- 
deric, the powerful king of the Ostrogoths, was too 
much occupied by his quarrel with the Greek Empe- 
ror to take advantage of the death of Clovis. Under 
these circumstances the Franks, so far from losing 
ground, were enabled to extend the limits of their 
empire and more firmly to establish their supremacy. 
The power of Theoderic the Great prevented 
Clovis from completing the conquest of Burgundy, 
and its rulers regained before his death a virtual in- 
dependence of the Franks. The sons of Clovis only 
wanted a favourable opportunity for finishing the 
work which their father had begun, and for changing 
the merely nominal subjection of Burgundy into ab- 
solute dependence. And here again it was internal 


dissension which prepared the way for the admission 
of the foreign enemy. 

Gundobald, King of Burgundy, died in a.d. 517, 
leaving two sons, Sigismund and Godomar, as joint 
successors to his throne. The former of these had 
married Ostrogotha, a daughter of Theodoric the 
Great, by whom he had one son, Sigeric. On the 
death of Ostrogotha, Sigismund took as his second 
wife a person of low and even menial condition, 
who pursued the son of the former queen with 
all the hatred popularly ascribed to step-mothers. 1 
Gregory relates that the boy increased the bitter- 
ness of her feelings against him by reproaching 
her for appearing on some solemn occasion in 
the robe and ornaments of his high-born mother. 
The new queen sought to revenge herself by ex- 
citing the jealousy of her husband against his son. 
She secretly accused Sigeric of engaging in a 
plot to obtain the crown for himself and represented 
him as having been moved to this dangerous and 
unnatural enterprise by the hopes he cherished of 
receiving aid from his mighty grandfather. This 
last suggestion found but too ready an entrance into 
the heart of Sigismund, and so completely poisoned 
for the time its natural springs, that he ordered 
Sigeric to be put to death. Inevitable remorse 
came quickly, yet too late, and the wretched king- 
buried himself in the monastery of St. Maurice, 
and sought to atone for his fearful crime by say- 

1 " Sicut novercaruni mos est," — Greg. Tur. iii. 5. 

h 4 

104 THE FRANKS. [Chap. III. 

ing masses day and night for the soul of his mur- 
dered son. 

In the meantime Clothildis, the widow of Clovis, 
herself a Burgundian princess, who had lived in 
retirement at the church of St. Martin since her 
husband's death, did all in her power to rouse her 
sons to take vengeance on her cousin Si^ismund. 1 
It is difficult to conjecture the source of the feeling 
which thus disturbed her holy meditations in the 
cloisters of St. Martin's, and filled her heart with 
schemes of revenge and bloodshed. We can hardly 
attribute her excitement on this occasion to a keen 
sense of the cruelty and injustice which Sigeric had 
suffered. The wife of Clovis must have been too well 
inured to treachery and blood to be greatly moved by 
the murder of her second cousin. Some writers have 
found sufficient explanation of her conduct in the fact 
that her own father and mother had been put to death 
in a. d. 492 by Gundobald, the father of Sigismund. 
But we know that when Gundobald was defeated by 
Clovis he obtained easy terms, nor was the murder of 
Clothildis 7 parents brought against him on that oc- 
casion. It is not likely that a thirst for vengeance 
which such an injury might naturally excite, after 
remaining unslaked in the heart of Clothildis for 
nearly thirty years, should have revived with increased 
intensity on account of a murder committed by one 
of the hated race upon his own kinsman. A more 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 6. : " Non me poeniteat carissimi vos dulciter 
enutrisse. Indignaraini, quceso, injuriam meam, et patris matrisque 
mere mortem sagaci studio vindicate." 


probable motive is suggested by a passage in Gregory 
of Tours, in which he informs us that Theoderic of 
Metz had married Suavegotta a daughter of Sigis- 
mund of Burgundy. 1 Theoderic, as we have said, was 
the eldest son of Clovis, by an unknown mother, and 
was evidently the most warlike and powerful of the 
four Prankish kings. A union between her stepson 
and the Burgundian dynasty might seem to Clothildis 
to threaten the welfare and safety of her own sons, to 
whom her summons to arms appears to have been 
most particularly addressed. Theoderic took no part 
in the present war; and on a subsequent occasion, 
when invited by Clodomir to join him in an expedition 
against the Burgundians, he positively refused. 

The sons of Clothildis, happy in being able to obey 
their mother's wishes in a manner so gratifying to 
their own inclinations, made a combined attack upon 
Burgundy in a. d. 523. Sigismund and Godomar 
his brother, were defeated, and the former, having 
been given up to the conquerors by his own followers, 
was carried prisoner to Orleans ; the latter escaped 
and assumed the reins of government in Burgundy. 2 
The Franks, like all barbarians of that age, found it 
more easy to conquer a province than to keep it. In 
the very same year, on the retreat of the Frankish 
army, Godomar was able to retake all the towns 
which had been surrendered to the Franks, and to 
possess himself of his late brother's kingdom. 

1 Greg, Tur. iii. 5. Conf. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fredeg. xxx\ i. 
Fortunati Carm. (ap. Bouquet, ii. p. 497. note c). Frodoardus, 
Hist. Remens. lib. ii. 

2 Greg. Tur. iii. 6. 

106 THE FRANKS. [Chap. III. 

Clodomir renewed the invasion in the following 
year. Before his departure he determined to put the 
captive Sigismund, with his wife and children, to death; 
nor could the bold intercession of the Abbot Avitus, 
who threatened him with a like calamity, deter him 
from his bloody purpose. His answer to the abbot 
is highly naive. " It seems to me/' he said, " a foolish 
piece of advice to leave some enemies at home 
while I am marching against others, so that, with the 
former in the rear and the latter in front, I may rush 
between the two wedges of my enemies. Victory 
will be better and more easily obtained by separating 
one from the other." In accordance with this better 
plan, he caused his captives to be put to death at 
Columna near Orleans, and thrown into a well. 1 After 
thus securing " his rear," he marched against the 
Burgundians. In the battle which took place on the 
plain of Veferonce near Yienne, Clodomir was deceived 
by a feigned retreat of the Burgundian army, and, 
having been carried in the impetuosity of his pursuit 
into the midst of the enemy, he was recognised by the 
royal length of his hair and slain on the field of battle. 2 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 6. : " Statimque interfeclo Sigismundo cum 
uxore et filiis, apud Columnam Aurelianensis urbis vicum in puteum 
jactari prascipiens." Gibbon (c. xxxviii.), says: " The captive 
monarch, with his wife and children, were transported to Orleans 
and buried alive in a deep well! " 

2 Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fredeg. xxxvi. Agathias, lib. i. 

p. 14. A. : . . . TTEUOVTOQ 0£ CIVTOV, EWElCr) T))^ KOfJLl]y 01 V>OVpyOv£'t<i)ViQ 

Ka6Eif.iu'r)v ko.1 atyerov kdeacravTO kcu }J-i\pi rov fiETCKbpiyov ktyctXacr- 


The loss of their leader, however, instead of causing a 
panic among the Franks, inspired them with irresist- 
ible fury ; they quickly routed the Burgundians, and, 
after devastating their country with indiscriminate 
slaughter, compelled them once more to submission. 1 
Yet it was not until after a third invasion that 
Burgundy was finally reduced to the condition of a 
Frankish province, and even then it retained its own 
laws and customs ; the only marks of subjection con- 
sisting in an annual tribute and the liability to serve 
the Frankish king in his wars. 

On the death of Clodomir, his territories were 
divided among the three remaining kings ; and 
Clotaire, the youngest of them, married the widowed 
queen Guntheuca. The children of Clodomir, being 
still young, appear to have been taken no notice of 
in the partition : they found an asylum with their 
grandmother Clothildis. 2 

While his half-brothers were enlarging the Frank- 
ish frontier towards the south-east, Theoderic, 
who had declined to join in the attack upon Bur- 
gundy, was directing his attention towards Thu- 
ringia 3 , which he ultimately added to the kingdom 
of Austrasia. The accession of the Thuringians to 
the Frankish Empire was the more important be- 
cause they inhabited those ancient seats from which 
the Franks themselves had gone forth to the con- 

1 Gre"*. Tur. iii. 6> Gesta Francor. xxi. (ap. Bouquet, ii. 
p. 556.) : "Apuero usque ad senes omnes perenierunt.'' 

2 Greg. Tur. iii. 6. 

3 The present Saxon Duchies and Saxon Prussia. 

103 THE FRANKS. [Chap. III. 

quest of Gaul, and because it served to give ad- 
ditional strength to the Austrasian kingdom, in 
which the German element prevailed. 

The fall of Thuringia is traced by the historian 
to the ungovernable passions of one of the female 
sex, which plays so prominent a part in the history 
of these times. 

About a. d. 528, this kingdom was governed by 
three princes, Baderic, Hermenfried and Berthar, 
the second of whom had the high honour, as it 
was naturally considered, of espousing Amalaberg, 
the niece of Theoderic the Great. The " happy 
Thuringia," however, derived anything but advan- 
tage from the " inestimable treasure" which, ac- 
cording to her uncle's account of her, it acquired 
in the Ostrogothic princess. 1 This lady was not 
unconscious of the dignity she derived from her 
august relative, and fretted within the narrow 
limits of the fraction of a petty kingdom. Gregory 
tells us a singular story of the manner in which she 
marked her contempt of the possessions of her 
husband, and at the same time betrayed her ambi- 
tious desires. 2 On returning home one day to a 

1 Cassiodor. Epist, var. lib. iv. epist. 1. Theoderic the Great, 
when committing her to the care of Hermenfried, writes thus : 
" Habebit felix Thoringia, quod nutrivit Italia literis doctam, 
moribus eruditam, decoram non solum genere quantum et fceminea 
dignitate, ut non minus patria vestra istius splendeat moribus 
quam suis triumphis." 

2 Gregory of Tours and Fredegar more justly call her " Uxor 
iniqua atque crudelis " and " nequissima." 


banquet, Hermenfried observed that a part of the 
table had no cloth upon it; and when he inquired of 
the queen the reason of this unusual state of things, 
she told him that it became a king who was despoiled 
of the centre of his kingdom to have the middle of his 
table bare. Excited by the suggestions of his queen, 
Hermenfried determined to destroy his brothers, 
and made secret overtures to Theoderic of Austrasia, 
to whom he promised a portion of his expected ac- 
quisitions on condition of receiving aid. Theoderic 
gladly consented, and, in conjunction with Hermen- 
fried, defeated and slew both Baderic and Berthar 
(Werther). A man who, to serve his ambition, had 
not shrunk from a double fratricide, was not likely 
to be very scrupulous in observing his engagements 
to a mere ally. He entirely forgot his promise to 
Theoderic and kept the whole of Thuringia to him- 
self. 1 He relied for impunity on his connection with 
the ro} 7 al house of the Ostrogoths, his alliance with 
the Heruli and Warni, and the great increase of his 
strength in Thuringia itself. But with all these ad- 
vantages he was no match for Theoderic of Austrasia 
and his warlike subjects. The death of the latter's 
great namesake removed the only obstacle which 
had prevented the Franks from attacking Thuringia. 
In a, d. 530 the Austrasian king summoned his war- 
like subjects to march against Hermenfried ; and, 
in order to make the ground of quarrel as general 
as possible, he expatiated to them on some imaginary 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 4. 

110 TLLE THANKS. [Chap. IIL 

cruelties committed by the Thuringians upon their 
countrymen. " Revenge," said he, " I pray you, both 
the injury done to me, and the death of your own 
fathers ; remembering that the Thuringians formerly 
fell with violence upon our ancestors, and inflicted 
many evils upon them, when they had given hostages 
and were desirous of making peace ; but the Thu- 
ringians destroyed these hostages in various ways, 
and having invaded the territory of our forefathers, 
robbed them of all their property, hung up young 
men by the sinews of their legs, and destroyed more 
than 200 maidens by a most cruel death." The 
enumeration of all these horrors ends with some de- 
gree of bathos: " But now Hermenfried has cheated 
me of what he promised." l 

The Franks, who required no very powerful 
oratory to induce them to undertake an expedition 
in which there was prospect of plunder, unanimously 
declared for war ; and Theoderic, in company 
with his son Theudebert and his brother Clotaire 
of Soissons, marched into Thuringia. The inhabit- 
ants endeavoured to protect themselves from the 
superior cavalry of the invaders by a stratagem 
similar to that employed by Robert Bruce at 
Bannockburn, by digging small holes in front of 
their own line. They were, however, compelled to 
retreat to the river Unstrut in Saxon Prussia, 
where they made a stand, but were defeated with 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 7. This historian does not tell us when or 
why these cruelties were committed ! 


immense carnage, so that the river "was choked 
with dead bodies, which served as a bridge for the 
invaders." The whole country was quickly reduced 
and permanently incorporated with Austrasia. And 
thus, after a long interval, the Franks repossessed 
themselves of the ancient homes of their tribe, and by 
one great victory established themselves in the very 
heart of Germany, which the Komans from the same 
quarter had often, but vainly, endeavoured to do. 

The growing separation between the German and 
Romance elements in the Frankish Empire, as re- 
presented by Theoderic, King of Metz, on the one 
side, and his half-brother, on the other, becomes more 
and more evident as our history proceeds. While 
the sons of Clothildis were associated in almost every 
undertaking, Theoderic frequently stood aloof, in a 
manner which shows that his connection with them 
was by no means of the same kind as theirs with 
each other. The conquest of the purely German 
Thuringia, was undertaken by Theoderic exclusively 
on his own account and in reliance on his own 
resources. Clotaire indeed accompanied him in his 
expedition against that country, but in all proba- 
bility without any military force, nor does he 
appear to have put in any claim to a share of the 
conquered territor)^. 1 The subjugation of Burgundy, 
on the other hand, in which the Romance language 

1 Theoderic is said during this very expedition to have made 
a treacherous attempt on the life of his brother, which he would 
hardly have ventured to do had Clotaire brought an army into 
the, field. Greg. Tur. iii. 7. 

112 THE FRANKS. [Chai\ III. 

and manners had acquired the ascendancy, was the 
work of Clotaire and Childebert alone. Theoderic 
w r as invited to join them, but refused on the ground 
of his connection with the King of Burgundy. What- 
ever may have been his reason for declining so 
tempting an invitation, it was certainly not want of 
support from his subjects, for we are told that they 
were highly irritated by his refusal, and mutinously 
declared that they would march without him. Yet he 
adhered to his determination not to join his brothers, 
and pacified the wrath of his soldiers by leading them 
against the Arverni, in whose country they committed 
the most frightful ravages, undismayed by several 
astounding miracles ! 1 

An inroad had been previously made upon the 
Arverni, by Childebert, while Theoderic was still in 
Thuringia. Childebert had suddenly broken off 
from the prosecution of this war, and turned his 
arms against Amalaric, King of the Visigoths, who 
still retained a portion of Southern Gaul. This 
monarch had married Clothildis, a daughter of Clovis, 
from motives of interest and dread of the Frankish 
power ; but appears to have thrown aside his fears, 
and with them his conciliating policy, on the death 
of his great father-in-law. 2 We are told that 
Clothildis suffered the greatest indignities at the 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 12. 

2 Procop. Goth. i. 13. (ap. Muratori Rer. Ital. Script, t. i.) : 
"Rex autera Visigotbaruni Amalaricus adulta jam astate Ger- 
manorum potentiam reformidans eorum Regis Theodeberti 
(Childeberti ?) sororem in matrimonii! in duxit." 


hands of Amalaric and his Arian subjects for her 
faithful adherence to the Catholic Church. 1 Where 
religious predilections are concerned, it is necessary 
to receive the accounts of the dealings between the 
Franks and their Arian neighbours with the utmost 
caution. Few will believe that the object of Childe- 
bert's march Avas solely to avenge his sister's wrongs ; 
but the mention of them by the historian seems to 
indicate that the invasion was made in reliance upon 
Catholic support among the subjects of Amalaric 
himself. The sudden resolution of Childebert (taken 
probably on the receipt of important intelligence 
from the country of the Visigoths), the rapid progress 
and almost uniform success of the Franks, all point 
to the same conclusion, that the Catholic party in 
Southern Gaul was in secret understanding with the 
invaders. Amalaric was defeated and slain in the 
first encounter, and the whole of his Gallic posses- 
sions, with the exception of Septimania, was incor- 
porated without further resistance with the Frankish 
Empire. The Visigoths, with their wives and 
children, retired into Spain under their new king 


Theoderic, King of Austrasia, died in a. d. 534, 
after having added largely to the Frankish domi- 
nions, and was succeeded by his son Theudebert. 2 
An attempt on the part of his uncles Childebert and 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 10. Conf. Chron. Moiss. ad an. 531. (ap. Bou- 
quet, ii. p. 650.). 

2 Greg. Tur. iii. 23. 

114 THE FRANKS. [Chap. III. 

Clotaire to deprive him of his kingdom and his life 
was frustrated by the fidelity of his Austrasian sub- 
jects. How venial and almost natural such a conspi- 
racy appeared in that age, even to him who was to 
have been the victim of it, may be inferred from the 
fact that Theudebert and Childebert became soon 
afterwards close friends and allies. The latter, 
having no children, adopted his nephew, whose life 
he had so lately sought, as the heir to his dominions, 
and loaded him with the richest presents. 1 In a. d. 
537 these two princes made a combined attack upon 
Clotaire, who was only saved from destruction by the 
intercession of his mother. That pious princess 
passed a whole night in prayer at the sepulchre of 
St. Martin, and Gregory tells us that the result of her 
devotions — a miraculous shower of enormous hail- 
stones — brought his cruel kinsmen to reason ! 2 

The Empire of the Franks was soon after extended 
in a direction in which they had hitherto found an 
insurmountable barrier to their progress. On the 
death of Theoderic the Great, or, as he is called 
in song and legend, " Dietrich of Bern," the 
sceptre which he had borne with such grace 
and vigour passed into the hands of an infant 
and a woman. The young and beautiful Amala- 

i Greg. Tur. iii. 24. 

2 Ibid. 28. : " Ipsi (Theudebert and Childebert) quoque super 
infectam grandine humum in faciem proruunt, et a lapidibus 
descendentibus graviter verberantur. Nullum enim illis tegumen 
emanserat nisi parmoe tantum. . . . Tunc illi, ut dixiinus, a lapid- 
ibus ccesi et humo prostrati, poenitentiam agebant . . . Super 
Chlotachariam vero nerjue una quidem pluvicB gutta decklit /" 


suintha 1 , daughter of Theoderic by the sister of 
Clovis, and widow of Eutharic, exercised the royal 
authority in the name of her son Athalaric 2 ; and 
when the latter, prematurely exhausted by vicious 
habits, followed his mighty grandfather to the 
grave in a. d. 532 3 , she made Theodatus, son of 
Amalafrida, the sister of Theoderic, her associate 
in the royal power. The benefit was basely repaid. 
Theodatus procured the murder of the unhappy 

1 CassiodoriVita,) Pars Prima, s. 30.: "Amalasuntha pia imprimis 
Regina." Greg, Tur. iii. 31. (Gregory of Tours gives an account of 
Amalasuinth a entirely different from that of the Greek historian, and, 
as far as we can judge, equally at variance with the truth): " Hasc 
autem cum adulta facta esset. . . . relicto matris consilio quae ei 
Regis filium providebat servum suum Traguilanem nomine accepit, 
et cum eo ad civitatem, qua defensari possit aufugit." Gregory 
then accuses her of poisoning her mother at the Lord's Supper, 
and adds : " Nos vero Trinitatem in una aequalitate pariter et omni- 
potentia confitentes etiam si mortiferum, bibamus in nomine Patris, 
et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, veri atque incorruptibilis Dei, nihil nos 
vocabit. Indignantes ergo Itali contra banc mulierem Theodadum 
Regem Tusciae invitantes se Regem statuunt. Hie vero cum 
didicisset quae meretrix ilia commiserat qualiter propter servum 
quern acceperat in matrem extiterat parricida succenso vehementer 
balneo earn in eodem cum una puella includi praecepit." The 
bishop may have been blinded by the fact he mentions, that, 
" Erant autem sub Ariana secta viventes" 

2 Procop. Goth. i. 2. : ^A^aXaaovrda ce, u te tov 7raid6g kiri- 

rpoirog ovcra, t)]V ap^y)v SiviceIto, ^vvecrEiog jj.ev teal ZiKaioavvqQ E7r\ 

ttXeIgtoi' EXdovtra, Trjs Ce (frvffEiog eq ayav to appEvujwbv EvZEiKyvfiEvq. 

Cassiod. Chron. A. D. 526. : " Infantulum adhuc vix decennem." 

Jornand. Get. c. 59. 

3 Procop. Goth i. 3, 4. : 'Ev tovtu> %e ^AraXapt^oQ eq KpanraXr^v 

EfXTTE7TTlOKl^Q OpOV OVK EyOVfJElV VO(Jllf.ia.Tl flCtpCMTfJLOV ijXd). . . . YtTO 

tov yjpovov tovtov ' ATaXapiyoq [iev rtj rocra) KaTa^iopardEiQ eteXevtjj- 

rTEV, OKTlrt Tij UPXV £TTl{=> l( > v C ETt], 

J 2 

116 THE FKANKS. [Chap. III. 

queen to whom lie owed his advancement x , and thus 
drew down upon himself and his country the ven- 
geance of all who were desirous of dismembering the 
Empire of the Ostrogoths. Religious animosities, 
which it had been the policy of the Arian but tolerant 
Theoderic to sooth by the even-handed justice of 
his administration, broke forth with destructive fury 
under his feeble successors. The Roman subjects 
of Theoderic's empire had not lost the pride, 
although they had degenerated from the valour, of 
their ancestors, and had never ceased to think it 
shame and sin to be ruled by a barbarian monarch, 
and that monarch, too, a heretic. They would 
gladly have consented to forget their former jea- 
lousies, and to unite themselves with the Eastern 
Empire, especially when a temporary gleam of life 
was thrown over its corrupt and dying frame by the 
vigorous administration of Justinian. But, if it were 
the will of Heaven that they should yield to a new 
and more vigorous race, they wished at least to 
have an orthodox master, who would not merely 
protect their religious freedom, but agree with 
their theological opinions. Their choice therefore 
lay between Justinian and the Franks, who were 
ever watching their opportunity to turn the errors 
and divisions of their neighbours to their own 
account. Justinian was the first to move; and, under 

1 Marcellin. Chron. p. 52. : "Quo tempore Theodahadus, rex 
Gothorum Amalasuentham reginam, creatricera suam de regno 
pnlsam in insula laci Bulcinensis occidit. Cujus mortem Imperator 
Justinianus lit doluit sic et ultus est." 


the pretext of avenging the death of Amalasuintha, 
he sent his celebrated general Belisarius to attack 
Theodatus. The Franks beheld with joy the ap- 
proaching struggle between their two mightiest rivals, 
and prepared to take the advantageous position of 

Both Justinian and Theodatus were aware that 
the Franks could turn the scale in favour of either 
party, and both made the greatest efforts to con- 
ciliate their aid. Justinian appealed to their natural 
enmity against heretics and Goths, but deemed it 
necessary to quicken their national and theological 
antipathies by a large present of money, and still 
larger promises. The Franks received the money 
and promised the desired assistance the more 
readily, as they felt themselves aggrieved by the 
murder of a niece of Clovis. 1 Theodatus, on the 
other hand, hearing that Belisarius was already on 
his way to Sicily, endeavoured to ward off the 
attack of the Franks by offering them the Gothic 
possessions in Gaul and 2000 pounds' weight of 
gold. The Franks were dazzled by the splendour of 
the bribe, but Theodatus died before the bargain was 
completed. 2 His general Vitisges, who was elected 
to succeed him, called a council of the chiefs of the 
Ostrogothic nation, and was strongly urged by them 

1 Procop. Goth. i. 5. 13. 

2 According to one account, Theodatus was put to death by 
order of his own general and successor on the throne, Vitisges. 
Jorn. de Regn. succ. p. 241. (ap. Murator. Ital. Rer. i.). 

j 3 

118 TI1E FRANKS. [Chap. III. 

to fulfil the promises of Theodatus, and by sacri- 
ficing a portion of the empire to secure the rest. 
" In all other respects/' they said, " we are well 
prepared ; but the Franks, our ancient enemies, are an 
obstacle in our path." x The imminent peril in which 
Vitisges stood rendered the sacrifice inevitable, and 
the whole of the Ostrogothic possessions in Gaul 
which lay between the Rhone, the Alps, and the 
Mediterranean, as well as that part of Rha^tia which 
Theoderic the Great had given to the Alemanni 
after their defeat by Clovis, were transferred in full 
sovereignty to the Franks. The Merovingian kings, 
regardless of their former promises to Justinian, 
divided the land and money among themselves and 
promised their venal but efficient support to the 
king of Italy. They stipulated, however, out of de- 
licacy to the Greek Emperor, that they should not 
march in person against Belisarius, but should be 
allowed to send the subject Burgundians, or at all 
events to permit them to go. 2 This seasonable rein- 
forcement enabled the Ostrogoths to sack and plunder 
Milan, in which exploit they received the willing assist- 
ance of the Burgundians. In the following year, 
a. d. 539, Theudebert himself, excited perhaps by the 
alluring accounts he had heard of the booty taken 
by his subjects in Italy, marched across the Alps at 

1 (bpayyoi ce $]fj.~iv kinrolwv 'Itrravrai. — Procop. Goth. i. 13. 

' l Procop. Goth. ii. 12.: Ov <bpdyyu>v avruv aXXaBovpyovZiuvwy, 
tov fj.i) coksIv ddiKetv rd fiao-iXewg 7rpdyfj.ara. 01 yap Bovpyovv£iweQ 
edeXovaioi te teal avrcvofiu) yfxw^rj ov OEvdi&Epruj keXevovtl eVa/cou- 
ovteq Ci$ev rw Xoytf) egteXXovto. 


the head of 100,000 men. Vitisges and his Goths 
had every reason to suppose that Theudebert came 
to succour them, but Belisarius on his part hoped 
much from the long feud between Goth and Frank. 
Theudebert determined in his own way to be im- 
partial. 1 He had promised to aid both parties, and 
he had promised to make war on both ; and he 
kept his word by attacking both, driving them from 
the field of battle, and plundering their camps with 
the greatest impartiality. A letter of remonstrance 
from Belisarius would probably have had little 
weight in inducing Theudebert to return, as he 
did soon afterwards, had it not been backed by the 
murmurs of the Franks themselves, who were suffer- 
ing from an insufficient supply of food, and had lost 
nearly one third of their numbers by dysentery. 2 

Though our principal attention will be directed 
to the actions of the Austrasian king, we may briefly 
refer in this place to a hostile incursion into Spain, 
made by Childebert and Clotaire, in A. d. 542. On 
this occasion the town of Saragossa is represented 
by Gregory as having been taken, not by the sword 
and battle-axe of the Franks, but by the holy tunic 
of St. Vincentius, borne by an army of women, clothed 
in black mantles, with their hair dishevelled and 
sprinkled with penitential ashes. The heretical Goths 
no sooner caught sight of the tunic, and heard the 

1 Procop. Goth. ii. 25. Procopius, in speaking of the Franks 
on this occasion, says : "Eoti yap edvog tovto rd eg iz'lutlv o-^aXtpw- 
rarov av6pu)7ru)y Inravru)}'. 

2 Procop. Goth. ii. 25. 

i 4 

120 THE FRANKS. [Chap. III. 

first notes of the holy hymns which were sung by 
the female besiegers, than they fled in terror from 
their city, and left it to be plundered by the ad- 
vancing Franks. 

As the object of this invasion was simply predatory, 
the Franks soon after retired into Gaul with immense 
booty, and the Goths resumed possession of their de- 
vastated country. 1 

While Italy was distracted by war, and with diffi- 
culty defending itself from the attacks of Belisarius, 
Theudebert took possession of several towns which 
bordered upon Burgundy and Rhastia. Bucelinus, 
the Duke of Alemannia, avIio fought in the army 
of Theudebert, is said by Gregory to have conquered 
" Lesser Italy," 2 by which he no doubt meant Li- 
guria and Venetia. These provinces were added to 
the Frankish dominions, the Ostrogoths only retain- 
ing Brescia and Verona. 

The cession of territory made to the Franks by 
Vitisges as described above, was ratified by the 
Emperor Justinian : and, as a further proof of the 
growing influence of the Merovingian kings, we 
may state, that in a. d. 540 they presided at the 
games which were celebrated in the circus of Aries, 
and caused coins of gold to be struck, bearing 
their own image instead of that of the Roman em- 
peror. 3 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 29. Ex Adonis Chron. ad an. 542 (ap. Bou- 
quet, ii. p. 667.). 

2 Greg. Tur. iii. 32. Procop. Goth. iii. 33. 

3 Procop. Goth. iii. 33. 


It is about this period that the Bavarians first 
become known in history as tributaries of the Franks ; 
but at what time they became so is matter of dispute. 
From the previous silence of the annalists respecting 
this people, we may perhaps infer that both they and 
the Suabians remained independent until the fall of 
the Ostrogothic Empire in Italy. The Gothic do- 
minions were bounded on the north by Rhsetia and 
Noricum ; and between these countries and the 
Thuringians, who lived still further to the north, was 
the country of the Bavarians and Suabians. Thuringia 
had long been possessed by the Franks, Rhsetia was 
ceded by Vitisges, King of Italy, and Venetia was 
conquered by Theudebert. The Bavarians were 
therefore, at this period, almost entirely surrounded 
by the Frankish territories, in which position, con- 
sidering the relative strength of either party, and the 
aggressive and unscrupulous spirit of the stronger, 
it was not possible that the weaker should preserve 
its independence. Whenever they may have first 
submitted to the yoke, it is certain that at the time 
of Theudebert's death, or shortly after that event, 
both Bavarians and Suabians (or Alemannians), had 
become subjects of the Merovingian kings. And thus, 
in the middle of the sixth century, and only sixty 
years from the time when Clovis sallied forth from 
his petty principality to attack Syagrius, the Frankish 
kingdom attained to its utmost territorial greatness, 
and was bounded by the Pyrenees and the Alps on 
the southland on the north by the Saxons, more 
impassable than either. 

122 THE FRANKS. [Chai>. III. 

Theudebert died in A. d. 547 l , and was suc- 
ceeded by his son Theodebald, a sickly and weak- 
spirited boy, of whose brief and inglorious reign 
there is little to relate. He died in a. d. 553, of 
some disease inherent in his constitution, leaving no 
children behind him. 2 His kingdom therefore re- 
verted to his great uncles Childebert and Clotaire, the 
former of whom was a feeble and childless old man, 
while the latter, to use the language of Agathias, 
" had only contracted his first wrinkles," 3 and was 
blessed with four high-spirited and warlike sons. 
Under these circumstances, Clotaire considered it safe 
to claim the whole of his deceased nephew's kingdom; 
and declared that it was useless to divide it with 
Childebert, whose own possessions must shortly fall 
to himself and his sons. To strengthen his claims 
still further, he married Vultetrada, the widow of 
Theodebald and daughter of Wacho, king of the 
Longobards. For some reason or other (but hardly 
from their objection to polygamy, since Clotaire had 
actually had at least five wives, not all of whom could 
be dead), the Christian bishops strongly opposed this 
marriage. 4 It is not improbable that the fear of false 

1 Greg. Tur. iii. 37. Agath. i. p. 15. According to Agathias, 
Theudebert was killed while hunting ; while in the Epitom. Hist. 
Franc, per Fredeg. c. 46., he died vexatus afebre. 

2 Greg. Tur. iv. 9. 

Agathias, n. 51. B. : Kcu ovttu) Xlnv tyeyrjpciKEi wXijp aaov eg 
irpu)TY]v pvrida. 

4 Altogether we find mention made of seven wives of Clotaire. 


doctrine may have influenced them more than the 
dread of immorality, and that their opposition in this 
case, as in many subsequent ones, was founded upon 
the fact that the new queen belonged to an Arian 

In the same year in which Theodebald died, Clo- 
taire, King of Soissons, was involved in serious hosti- 
lities with the Saxons, the only German tribe whom 
the Franks could neither conquer nor overawe. In 
a. d. 555, when forced into a battle with the Saxons 
at Deutz, by the overweening confidence of his 
followers, who even threatened him with death in 
case of noncompliance, he received a decisive and 
bloody defeat, and the Saxons freed themselves from a 
small tribute, which they had hitherto paid to the 
Austrasians. 1 The kindred Merovingians never lost 
an opportunity of injuring one another, and Childebert, 
taking advantage of his brother's distress, not only 
urged on the Saxons to repeat their incursions, but 
harboured and made common cause with Chramnus, 
the rebellious and exiled son of Clotaire. The war 
which was thus begun, continued till the death 
of Childebert in a. d. 558 2 , when Clotaire took im- 
mediate possession of the kingdom of Paris. 

Aregundis, Chunsena (Unsina), Gundeuca, Ingundis, Radegundis, 
Weldetada, and Ultrogotha. 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 14. The Saxons refer in this place to a 
tribute which they had been accustomed to pay to Theoderic and 
his successors. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. c. 51. : " Tanta 
strages a Saxonibus de Francis facta est ut mirum fuisset." 

2 Greg. Tur. iv. 20. 

12-i THE FRANKS. [Chap. Ill- 

Chramnus, having lost his powerful ally, was 
obliged to submit, and appears to have been in some 
sort forgiven. In a short time, however, he revolted 
again, and fled for refuge to Chonober, Count of the 
Britons 1 , who, since their voluntary submission to 
Clovis, had remained in a state of semi-dependence on 
the Franks. Chonober received him with open arms, 
and raised an army to support his cause, forgetful, or 
regardless, of the obedience which he nominally owed 
to the Frankish king. Conscious of his inability to 
meet Clotaire in the open field, he proposed to Chram- 
nus that they should attack his father in the night. 
To this, however, the rebellious son, half repentant 
perhaps, " virtute Dei prceventus" would by no means 
consent. Chonober had gone too far to recede, even 
had he wished to do so, and on the following morning 
the two armies engaged. 

Clotaire, though cruel and licentious, even for a 
Merovingian, was evidently a favourite of Gregory of 
Tours, who represents him as marching to meet his son 
like another David against another Absalom. "Look 
down," he prayed, " Lord, from heaven, and judge 
my cause, for I am undeservedly suffering wrong at the 
hands of my son; pass the same judgment as of old 
between Absalom and his father David." " Therefore" 
continues the historian, " when the armies met, the 
Count of the Britons turned and fled, and was killed 

1 Greg. Tur. iv 20. : " Chramnus autempatri reprgesentatur, scd 
postea inlidelis exstitit." 


upon the field of battle." x Chramnus had prepared 
vessels to escape by sea ; but in the delay occasioned by 
his desire to save his family he was overtaken by the 
troops of Clotaire, and, by his father's orders, was 
burned alive with wife and children. 2 

The perusal of that part of Gregory's great work, from 
which we are now quoting, affords us another curious 
insight into the condition of the Christian Church in 
an age which some are found to look back to as one of 
peculiar purity and zeal. The historian has related to 
us in full and precise terms the several enormities of 
which Clotaire was guilty ; how he slew with his own 
hand the children of his brother, in the presence of 
the weeping Clothildis 3 , and under circumstances of 
peculiar atrocity ; how he forced the wives of mur- 
dered kings into a hateful alliance with himself; how 
he not only put his own son to a cruel death, but ex- 
tended his infernal malice to the latter's unoffending 
wife and children. 4 And yet the learned, and, as we 
have reason to believe, exemplary bishop of the 
Christian Church, in the very same chapter in which 
he relates the death of Chramnus, represents the mon- 
ster as having gained a victory by the special aid of 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 20. : " Confligentibus igitar pariter Britannorum 
Comes terga vertit, ibique et cecidit." 

2 Ibid. " Jussit (Chlothacharius) eum cum uxore et filiabusigni 
consumi; inclusique in tugurio cujusdam pauperculi, Chramnus 
super scamnum extensus orario suggilatus est ; et sic postea super 
eos incensa casula, cum uxore et filiabus interiit." 

3 Greg. Tur. iii. 18. 4 Greg. Tur. iv. 9. 

126 THE FRANKS. [Chap. III. 

God ! In the following chapter, he also relates to us 
the manner in which Clotaire made his peace with 
heaven before his death. 

In the fifty-first year of his reign, he sought the 
threshold of the blessed Martin of Tours, bringing with 
him many gifts. Having approached the sepulchre 
of a certain priest, he made a full confession " of the 
acts of negligence of which he had, perhaps, been 
guilty, and prayed with many groans that the blessed 
confessor would procure him the mercy of the Lord, 
and by his intercession obliterate the memory of all 
that he had done irrationally" 1 He died of a fever 
at Compiegne in a. d. 561. 

At the death of Childebert, in a. d. 558, Clotaire had 
become sole monarch of the Franks and Lord para- 
mount of the several affiliated and dependent states, 
which, though subject to his military ban, maintained 
themselves in a great degree of independence of 
action, and required the constant application of force 
to keep them to their allegiance. This union of so 
vast an empire under a single head, the result of acci- 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 21. : " Cunctas actiones quas fortasse negligenter 
egerat replicans." The tenderness of the fortasse is inimitable. 
We may compare with this passage the glowing accounts we read 
in modern times of the peculiarly holy and happy death of eminent 
murderers. " Ea quce irrationabiliter commiserate Clotaire, who 
never seems, as was said of our Charles II., to have done a good 
thing, is reported to have said one. In the last stage of the sick- 
ness which deprived him of life, he cried out : " Vua ! quid putatis 
qualis est ille Rex ccelestis, qui sic tarn magnos Reges interficit ! " 
— Greg. Tur. i . 21. 


dental circumstances conspiring to favour the efforts 
of personal ambition, was of no long continuance. Its 
importance to the nation at large was little understood, 
and the equal claim of all the sons in a family to suc- 
ceed to the dignity, and share the possessions of the 
father was, as we have said, founded on the general 
customs of the nation. 

128 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 



A.D. 561—613. 

At the death of Clotaire, his vast empire was di- 
vided among his four sons in such a manner that two 
of them inherited kingdoms in which the population 
was chiefly German, and the other two received the 
states in which the Romance element very greatly pre- 
dominated. Charibert succeeded to the kingdom of 
Paris, formerly held by Childebert ; Guntram to that 
of Orleans with Burgundy, the former portion of 
Chlodomir ; Chilperic, who at his father's death had 
seized the royal treasures and endeavoured to take 
possession of the whole empire, was compelled to rest 
satisfied with Soissons ; and Sigebert received Aus- 
trasia, the least attractive and civilised, but certainly 
the soundest and most powerful division of the 
empire. His capital was Eheims or Metz. 1 

The first-mentioned of these princes (Charibert), 
who is personally remarkable for little else than the 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 22. Conf. Gesta Reg. Franc, xxix. ap. 
Bouquet, ii. p. 560. In Hist. Francor. Epit. per Fredeg. c. 55. we 
have Metz. 


number of his wives 1 , is interesting to us as the 
father of Bertha or Adalberga, who married and con- 
verted Ethelbert, the King of Kent. Charibert died 
in a. d. 567 ; and when his dominions were parti- 
tioned among his three brothers, Sigebert received 
that portion which was most purely German in its 
population, and thus united all the German provinces 
under one head. 2 It was agreed on this occasion 
that Paris, which was rising into great importance, 
should be held in common by all, but visited by none 
of the three kings without the consent of the others. 
Almost immediately after his accession to the 
throne of Rheims (or Metz), Sigebert, the most 
warlike of the three brothers, was obliged to lead his 
Franks into action with the Avars or Huns, who in 
a. d. 562 endeavoured to force their way into Gaul. 3 
They appear to have ascended by the Danube ; 
but leaving that river, they marched towards the 
Elbe, and fell with great fury upon Thuringia. 
It was on the latter river that Sigebert engaged 
and defeated them. In a. d. 566, they renewed their 
attacks, and, according to Gregory, deceived the 
Franks with magic arts and delusive appearances, by 

1 Yet Fortunatus managed to write an ode in his praise, and 
compared him to his uncle Childebert. Fortun. Carm. vi. 4. 
(ap. Bouquet, t. ii.). 

2 Greg. Tur. iv. 26. 

3 Greg. Tur. iv. 23. Conf. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. 55., 
andGesta Reg. Franc. 30. (ap. Bouquet, t. ii.). Of this originally 
Asiatic people, the ancestors of the Sclavonians in Europe, we 
have a lively description in Ammianus Marcellinus, xxxi. 2. 


130 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

which we may be permitted to understand some kind 
of military stratagem. 1 Whether by fair means or 
by foul, the Franks were defeated, and their brave 
leader fell into the hands of the enemy. He suc- 
ceeded, however, in purchasing his own freedom and 
a lasting peace. 

Sigebert seems also to have come into conflict with 
those universal troublers of the peace of Europe, the 
marauding Danes and Saxons. Reference is made 
by the poet Fortunatus to a victory gained over this 
people by Sigebert's general Lupus, who is said to 
have driven them from the Wupper to the Lahn. 2 
The few records we possess of these encounters are, 
however, far too meagre to afford us the means of 
watching the struggle with these new and terrible 

Though Sigebert was an active and warlike prince, 
his name is far less prominent in the succeeding his- 


tory than that of his queen Brunhilda, — a woman re- 
nowned for her beauty, talents, birth, and commanding 
influence, for the long and successful struggle carried 
on with her perfidious rival Fredegunda, and no less 
so for her intrigues, her extraordinary adventures, 
the cruel insults to which she was subjected at the 
hands of her enemies, and lastly for her most horrible 
death. Sigebert sought her hand from an honourable 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 29. : " Ut erat elegans et versutus 

superavit arte donandi." 

2 Foy^tunati Carm. vii. 7.: 

" Quae tibi (Lupo) sit virtus cum prosperitate supernn, 
Saxonis et Dani gens cito victa probat." 


motive, and there was nothing in the auspices which 
attended her union with him which could have pre- 
pared her for a long life of unceasing conflict and 
suffering, and a painful and ignominious end. 

The rude and violent character displayed by so 
many successive generations of the Merovingian race, 
the bloody feuds and unbridled licentiousness which 
disgraced their courts, had caused their alliance to be 
shunned by the more civilised rulers of the other 
leading German tribes. The practice of polygamy, 
common among the Frankish kings, also tended to 
diminish both the honour and advantage of an alli- 
ance with them. Charibert, as we have seen, chose 
several wives during his brief reign, from among the 
lowest of his people. The Franks themselves at last 
became impatient of the disgrace which was brought 
upon their nation by the low amours of their monarchs 
and the vulgar brawls of their plebeian consorts. It 
was from a desire to gratify his people, as well as his 
own better taste, that Sigebert looked abroad among 
the families of contemporary sovereigns for a partner 
worthy of his throne. Having made his choice, he 
sent ambassadors to the court of Athanagildis, King of 
the Visigoths in Spain, and demanded his daughter 
Br una in marriage. Athanagildis, fearing perhaps 
the consequences of a refusal, agreed to the proposed 
alliance, and sent back his daughter to Sigebert, with 
the ambassadors, whom he loaded with presents 
for his future son-in-law. The name of the bride 
was changed to Brunhilda on the occasion of her 
marriage. The graces of her person, the great and 

K 2 

132 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

highly cultivated powers of her mind, are celebrated 
by all who have occasion to mention her in her 
earlier years. 1 Gregory of Tours, in particular, 
speaks of her in glowing terras, describing her as a 
maiden of elegant accomplishments, of charming 
aspect, honourable a;nd decorous in her character and 
manners, wise in counsel, and bland in speech. 2 She 
belonged indeed to an Arian house, but quickly 
yielded to the preaching of the Catholic clergy, and 
the exhortations of her royal spouse. 3 This noble 
and beautiful woman became one of the leading 
spirits in an age of intrigue and blood, and is charged 
by her enemies with having instigated so many 
murders as to have fulfilled the prophecy of Sibylla : 
" Bruna shall come from the parts of Spain, before 
whose face many nations shall perish. 4 " 

1 For tuna t. Carm. vi. 2. : 

" Clarior aetherea Bruuechildes lampade fulgens, 
Luraina gemmarum superasti luraine vultus. 
Altera nata Venus, regno dotata decoris. 

Lactea cui facies incocta rubore coruscat 
Lilia mixta rosis, aurura si intermicet ostro, 
Decertata tuis nunquani se vultibus sequant." 

Ibid. vi. 3. : 

"Pulcbra, modesta, decens, solers, grata atque benigna ; 
Ingenio, vultu, nobilitate potens." 

2 Greg. Tur. iv. 27. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. 57. 

3 Fortuned. Carm. vi. 3. : " Ante (as an Arian) tamen homini, 
nunc (after her conversion) placet ecce Deo." 

4 Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. 59. : " Veniet Bruna de partibus 
Spaniae, ante cujus conspectum m ultra gentes peribunt." 


Her equally celebrated rival Fredegunda, the wife 
of Chilperic, rose to her lofty station from a very 
different sphere. The great eclat which attended 
the nuptials of Sigebert excited the emulation of 
Chilperic, the King of Soissons, who knew his own 
vile character so little as to suppose that he could 
live happily with one virtuous and high-born queen. 
He also sent ambassadors to the Visigothic court, 
and claimed the hand of Galsuintha, the sister of 
Brunhilda, solemnly engaging to dismiss his other 
wives and concubines, and to treat her as became 
her origin and character. 1 To the great grief of the 
royal maiden and her mother (for the worthlessness 
of Chilperic was known), his suit was successful; 
and the unwilling bride departed, with terrible fore- 
bodings and amid the lamentations of her family, 
to the court of her barbarous husband. 2 

The principal among the concubines of Chilperic, 
w r as Fredegunda, a woman of the meanest birth, 
but fair, ingenious, and skilled in meretricious arts. 3 
For a short time she was thrown into the shade by 
the arrival of the royal bride ; but having already 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 28. Gest. Reg. Franc. 31. Hist. Franc. Epit. 
per Fred.: " Postea transcendens sacrament urn, quod Gothorum 
legatis dederat ne unquani Gachilosoindam de culmine regni de- 
gradaret," &c. 

2 The distress occasioned by the bride's departure is well de- 
scribed by Fortunatus, vi. 7. 

3 " Nam ipsa Fredegundis ex familia infima fuit." — Gest. Franc. 
Reg. SI. "Erat autern Fredegundis Regina pulchra et ingeniosa 
nimis atque adultera." — Ibid. 35. 

k 3 

134 THE FRANKS. [Chu>. IV. 

supplanted a former queen of Chilperic's, named 
Andovera, whose servant she had been, she did not 
despair of making the lascivious king forget his good 
intentions and his solemn vows. Galsuintha, who 
had none of the terrible energy which distinguished 
her sister, was rendered so unhappy by the persecu- 
tion of her victorious rival and the open infidelity 
of her husband, that she begged to be allowed to 
return to her old home and affectionate parents, 
offering at the same time to leave behind her the 
treasures she had brought. 1 The king, who was not 
prepared for so open an exposure of his perfidy, 
temporised, and endeavoured to soothe her. What- 
ever feeble emotions of repentance he may have felt 
were soon effaced by the suggestion of the fiendish 
spirit in whose power he was ; and after a few days 
Galsuintha was strangled in her bed, by the com- 
mand, or at least with the permission, of her husband. 
That no circumstance of atrocity might be want- 
ing to this transaction, Chilperic publicly married 
Fredegunda a few days after the murder, to the 
great scandal of his subjects. 2 This event, which 
took place about a. d. 567, confirmed and deepened 
the enmity which already existed between Sigebert 
and his brother, and kindled in the bosom of 

1 This was the less difficult, as the unhappy Galsuintha was not 
(as we may fairly conclude from the silence of Gregory on this 
point) remarkable for personal charms. All that Gregory does 
say of her is that she was " estate senior qaam Brunehildisf — a 
doubtful advantage. 

2 Greg. Tur. iv. 28. : " Rex autem cum earn mortuam deflesset, 
post paucos dies Fredegundem recepit in matrimonio." 


Brunhilda that feverish longing for revenue which 
poisoned her naturally noble nature, and spread 
its deadly influence over the whole of her subsequent 

At the time when Austrasia was hard pressed by 
the invading Huns, Chilperic had embraced the 
opportunity of seizing llheims and other towns in 
the kingdom of Sigebert. The latter, however, no 
sooner found his hands at liberty, than he attacked 
and defeated the army of his brother, regained the cap- 
tured towns, and made Chilperic' s own son a prisoner. 
A hollow truce was then concluded, and the captive 
prince was restored to his father, enriched with gifts 
by his placable and generous uncle, who only stipu- 
lated that he should not bear arms against his 
liberator. 1 But Chilperic was one of those natures 
which know no ties but the bonds of appetite and 
lust, and was as incapable of acknowledging an ob- 
ligation as of keeping an oath. 2 

We are told that in consequence of the foul murder 
of the Visigothic princess and the disgraceful union 
with the suspected murderess, Chilperic was driven 
from the throne of Soissons. We may infer from 
this that the war which began between the brothers, 
on his restoration, was the result, in part at least, 
of the enmity of the rival queens. The immediate 
cause of the renewal of the conflict was an attack 

1 "In quadam pace manserunt." — Ex Adon. Chron. ad an. 
567. Greg. Tur. iv. 23. 

2 Greg. Tur. iv. 28. Gest. Reg. Franc. 30. 

i, 4 

136 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

made by Chilperic upon Poitou and Touraine, 
which had fallen to Sigebert on the death of Charibert. 
It was a great object with the contending parties to 
secure the co-operation of Guntram, King of Burgundy, 
who, though inferior to the others in power, could 
throw a decisive weight into either scale. The great 
superiority of the Austrasian army lay in its ex- 
clusively German character. Sigebert drew together 
large forces on the right bank of the Rhine from 
Suabia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Thuringia, and, evi- 
dently mistrusting Guntram, marched to the Seine, 
and threatened the Burgundians with the whole 
weight of his resentment should they refuse him a 
passage through their country. Chilperic on his 
part pointed out to the King of Burgundy the danger 
of allowing a u rude and heathen people " l to enter the 
civilised and Christian Gaul. So marked had the 
distinctions between the population of Austrasia 
and that of the rest of the Frankish Empire become, 
that they regarded each other as aliens. But if 
external civilisation was on the side of Neustria and 
Burgundy, the strength and marrow of the Franks 
Avas represented by Sigebert and his Austrasians ; 
and when the latter, more Germanorum, asked his 
perfidious enemy to fix a time and place for the 
battle, Chilperic sued for peace, and obtained it on 
condition of surrendering Poitou, Touraine, Limoges, 
and Quercy, He was also compelled to recall his son 
Theudebert, whom, in utter disregard of the promise 

1 Greer. Tur. iv. 50. 


made to Sigebert, he had sent with an army into 

In a. D. 575 Chilperic, incited as is supposed by 
the unsleeping malice of Fredegunda, and smarting 
under his recent loss of territory, determined once 
more to try the fortune of war against his generous 
conqueror. On this occasion he succeeded in per- 
suading Guntram into an alliance against Sigebert, 
whom he called " our enemy.' 7 Theudebert was sent 
with an army across the Loire, while Chilperic him- 
self fell upon Champagne. The King of Burgundy 
appears to have given little more than his sympathy 
to the Romano-Gallic cause, and soon saw cogent 
reasons for concluding a separate peace with the 
Austrasians. The campaign ended as usual in the 
entire discomfiture of Chilperic, whose Frankish 
subjects, tired of following a treacherous and, still 
Avorse, an unsuccessful leader, offered the kingdom 
of Soissons to Sigebert, and actually raised him on 
the shield, and proclaimed him king at Vitry. 1 The 
result of this election would appear to show that it 
was only the work of a party, perhaps the Austrasian 
or German party, against the wishes of the great 
mass of the nation. Chilperic in the meantime was 
closely besieged by Sigebert's troops at Tournai, and 
everything seemed to threaten his utter downfall, 
when he was saved by the same bloody hand which 
had often led him into crime and danger. Fredegunda, 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 52. Hist, Fr t anc. Epit. per Fred. 71. Gest. 
Reg. Franc. 32. 

13S THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

maddened at the spectacle of her most hated foes 
sitting on the throne of her husband, and receiving 
the homage of those whom she herself had virtually 
ruled, sent two hired assassins to Vitry. Under the 
pretence of holding a secret conference with Sigebert, 
they gained access to his person, and stabbed him in 
the side with their knives. 1 Thus died the warlike 
and hioh-minded Kinsr of Austrasia in a. d. 575. It 
is evident that the Neustrians were not sincere when 
they offered the crown to Sigebert, and that Frede- 
gunda reckoned on the support at all events of the 
Gallo-Romans. The daggers of her myrmidons did 
the work of many victories. No inquiry appears to 
have been instituted to discover the originators of 
the crime ; and Chilperic and his queen, instead of 
suffering in public opinion or incurring the vengeance 
of Sigebert's former friends, appear to have been re- 
leased by this foul deed from the most imminent peril, 
and at once to have regained their power. 

No sooner had Sigebert fallen under the knives of 
Fredegunda's assassins than Chilperic despatched mes- 
sengers to his friends at Paris to secure the persons 
of Brunhilda and her son and daughter, who were 
residing at that city. In the consternation and con- 
fusion consequent on Sigebert's sudden and unexpected 
death, no open resistance was offered by Brunhilda's 
partizans, and she and her whole family were thrown 

1 Greg. Ttir. iv. 52. : " Cum cultris validis quos vulgo scrama- 
saxos vocant." Gest. Reg. Fr. 32. Adon. Cliron. ad an. 575. 
(Bouquet, t. ii.) Conf. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. 93., where the 
murder is ascribed to Brunhilda ! 


into close confinement. Childebert, however, the heir 
to Sigebert's crown, at this time about five years old 1 , 
was saved by the fidelity and vigour of Gundobald, 
Duke of Campania, who caused him to be let down 
from the window of his prison in a sack, and escaped 
with him to Metz, where he was immediately pro- 
claimed king by the Austrasian seigniors. 2 Chilperic 
himself appeared in Paris soon afterwards, and sent 
Brunhilda to Rouen and her daughter to Meaux, and 
kept them both under strict surveillance. 

In order still further to improve the opportunity 
afforded by the removal of Sigebert, Chilperic sent 
part of his army under Roccolenus against Tours, 
which was speedily taken ; and another division under 
his son Merovaeus against Poitou. The latter expe- 
dition terminated in a very unexpected manner. 3 
Merovasus was little inclined to carry out any designs 
of his stepmother, Fredegunda, whom he hated, and 
least of all to the injury of Brunhilda, to whose extra- 
ordinary personal charms and varied accomplishments, 
to which even bishops were not insensible, his heart 
had fallen a captive. Instead of executing his father's 
orders at Poitou, he hastened to Rouen, and offered 
his hand in marriage to Brunhilda, whose forlorn 
condition inclined her to accept the homage and as- 

1 Greg. Tar. v. 1. : " Vix lustro cetatis uno jam peracto." 

2 Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fredeg. 72. : " Childebertus in pera 
positus per fenestrarn a puero acceptus est/' Gest. Reg. Franc. 

3 Greg. Tur. v. 14. Hi.t. Franc. Epit. per Fred. 74. Gest. 
Reg. Franc. 33- 

140 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

sistance thus proffered from the camp of her enemies. 1 
This strange turn of affairs appears greatly to have 
ularmed Fredegunda and Chilperic, who followed so 
quickly on the steps of his rebellious son, that the 
latter had barely time to escape into asylum in the 
church of St. Martin at Rouen ; from which he could 
not be persuaded to come out until security was 
granted for his own life and that of Brunhilda. 2 
Chilperic, it is said, received them kindly, and invited 
them to his table. Merovseus was then transferred 
to Soissons, and carefully guarded ; while Brunhilda, 
whether from a passing emotion of generosity in 
Chilperic's mind or the fear of Guntram, who had 
espoused his nephew's cause, was set at liberty and 
returned to Metz. 

Whatever motives led to her liberation, it was not 
likely to be accepted by Brunhilda as a compensation 
for the murder of one husband and the imprisonment 
of another. Her first act after joining her son at 
Metz was to despatch an army to Soissons, which in 
the first instance had nearly taken Fredegunda pri- 
soner, but was afterwards defeated by the Neustrians; 
the latter, in their turn, received a check from the 
forces of Guntram, and retreated with a loss of 20,000 
men. 3 

Merovams, in the meantime, was shorn of his royal 
locks and compelled to become a monk. In a. d. 

1 Greg. Tur. v. 2. This marriage was " contra fas legemque 
canon icam." 

2 Greg. Tur. v. 2, 3. 

3 Greg. Tur. v. 13. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fredeg. 75. 


577, he succeeded in escaping to the court of Brun- 
hilda at Metz ; but, though the queen received him 
gladly, he was compelled by a powerful faction of 
the Austrasian nobility, who were in close correspon- 
dence with Fredegunda, to quit the dominions of 
Childebert. After various adventures, he is said to 
have sought death at the hands of a faithful servant, to 
avoid falling into the power of his own father. Gre- 
gory of Tours, though he does not speak decidedly, 
evidently believes that he was treacherously ensnared 
by iEgidius, Bishop of Rheims 1 , Guntram-Boso, and 
other bitter enemies of Brunhilda, and murdered at 
the instigation of Fredegunda. 

Nothing in the history of the joint reigns of Sige- 
bert, Chilperic, and Guntram is more astonishing and 
perplexing to the reader, than the suddenness with 
which they form and dissolve alliances with one 
another, — the fickleness of their mutual friendships, 
and the placability of their enmities. Within the space 
of ten years we find Guntram and Childebert in league 
against Chilperic, Chilperic and Childebert against 
Guntram, and Guntram and Chilperic against Childe- 
bert ; and the parts were changed more than once in 
this short period. After a bloody war with his 
nephew Childebert, the Burgundian king adopts him 
as heir to all his dominions. After protecting the 
same nephew and his mother Brunhilda against Fre- 
degunda, the same Guntram defends Fredegunda 
against Childebert, and stands godfather to her son 

1 Greg. Tur. v. 19., viii. 10. 

142 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

Clotaire, in utter defiance of the entreaties and threats 
of his adopted successor. At the death of Chilperic, 
too, no one wept more bitterly for his loss than his 
brother Guntram *, though the greater part of their 
active manhood had been spent in plundering and 
laying waste each other's towns and fields. " I 
am weary," says Gregory of Tours, when speaking of 
the events which followed the death of Sigebert, "of 
relating the changeful events of the civil wars that 
wasted the Frankish nation and kingdoms, and in 
which, we behold the time predicted by our Lord 
as the u beginning of sorrows," when " the brother 
shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father 
the child," &c. 

Yet it would be wrong to ascribe the internecine 
wars by which the Frankish Empire was harassed and 
wasted, solely or even chiefly to the covetousness, am- 
bition, or malice of the brother kings ; they were owing 
in a still greater degree to the intrigues of the rival 
queens, whose hatred never changed and never slept, 
— to the endless feuds of the factious seigniors against 
each other, and their constant endeavours, as indivi- 
duals and as a class, to make themselves independent 
of the crown. Similar causes produced similar results 
in our own history during the wars of the Roses, to 
which, in their general characteristics, the struggles 
of which we have now to speak bear no small 

One of the principal objects of Fredegunda in the 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 5. : " Comperto autem Guntchramnus Rex 
de fratris excessu, amarissime flevit" 


persecution and murder of Merovseus — though his 
love for Brunhilda was alone sufficient to rouse her 
rival's deadliest hatred — -was to bring her own 
children nearer to the throne. This cherished 
purpose was signally and terribly frustrated. A 
fatal epidemic which raged in A. d. 580 through 
nearly the whole of Gaul, after attacking Chilperic 
himself, carried off both the sons whom Fredegunda 
had borne to him. The only symptoms of the 
better feelings of our nature recorded of Fredegunda 
were called forth, as might be expected, by this event. 
The death of her children touched the heart and 
stirred the conscience of this perjured, bloody-minded 
adulteress, who through life had been steeped in 
crime to the very lips. She called upon her husband 
to recognise with her the chastening hand of an 
offended God. She even sought, by burning the 
lists of those whom she had marked out as objects 
for an arbitrary and grinding taxation, to appease 
the wrath of Heaven. " Often," she said to Chilperic, 
" has God afflicted us with fevers and other mis- 
fortunes, but no amendment on our part has followed. 
Lo ! now we have lost our children ! The tears of 
the poor, the lamentations of the widow, have de- 
stroyed them." x Her repentance, however, soon gave 
way before her more habitual feelings. Clovis, the 
son of Chilperic's first queen or concubine, Anclovera, 
alone remained as heir to the Neustrian throne. 
Unable to endure the thought that others might 
cherish hopes which she herself had lost, Frede- 

1 Greg. Tur. v, 35. 

lAi THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

gunda accused this prince of having poisoned her 
children ; and having induced the weak and wicked 
Chilperic to imprison him, she soon afterwards 
caused him to be murdered, together with Andovera 

Guntram of Burgundy, as we have seen, aided 
in establishing Childebert on his father's throne ; 
and in a. d. 576 checked the victorious advance of 
Chilperic's troops. But in a. d. 581 the party of 
Austrasian seigniors which was favourable to the 
Neustrian alliance, — chiefly in consequence of their 
enmity to Brunhilda — obtained the upper hand, and 
induced or forced their young king to ally himself 
with Chilperic against Burgundy. As the price of 
this alliance — and he did nothing without bein^ 
richly paid for it — Chilperic was allowed to take 
possession of Senlis, Poitou, and Meaux, while 
Childebert was amused with the shadowy prospect of 
succeeding to the kingdom of Paris. 1 At the head of 
the faction above referred to, were Bishop iEgidius, 
and the Dukes Ursio and Bertefried, the political and 
personal enemies of Brunhilda. 2 The queen was ably 
though unsuccessfully supported by Duke Lupus, 
whose steady attachment to his royal mistress's cause, 
even to his own destruction, inclines us to give more 
than usual credit to the eulogies of Fortunatus. 3 

The anarchy into which the state had fallen after 
the death of Sigebert, the pride and insolence of the 

1 Greg. Tur. vi. 3. 11. » Greg. Tur. vi. 3, 4. 

3 Fortunati Carm. vii. 7, 8, 9. 


seigniors, and the rancorous feelings with which they 
regarded Brunhilda are portrayed in vivid colours in 
the pages of Gregory. " Lupus, Duke of Campania," 
he says, " had for a long time been persecuted and 
plundered by his adversaries, especially by the two 
powerful dukes Ursio and Bertefried, who, determined 
to take his life, marched against him with an armed 
band of followers. Brunhilda, being informed of their 
intentions, and moved with pity by the persecutions 
to which her faithful adherent was subjected, rushed 
forth in male attire between the ranks of the enemy, 
crying out, " Refrain, refrain, from this evil deed, 
and do not persecute the innocent. Do not, on ac- 
count of one man, commence a conflict by which the 
welfare of the country may be destroyed." Ursio inso- 
lently answered the temperate words of the mother of 
his king : u Depart from us, woman ! Be content to 
have possessed the royal power under your husband. 
Your son now reigns, and his kingdom is preserved, 
not by your guardianship, but by ours. Retire from 
us, lest the hoofs of our horses should trample you 
under foot." x 

In a. d. 583 Guntram found it necessary to sue for 
peace, and was obliged, in order to gain it, to leave 
his brother Chilperic in possession of all the territory 
he had conquered in the course of the war. 2 In the 
same year, however, an attempt of the Burgundians 

1 Greg. Tur. vi. 4» 

2 Greg. Tur. vi. 22. : "Rex igitur Chilpericus pervasis civita- 
tibus fratris sui, novos Comites ordinat, et cuncta jubet sibi urbium 
tributa deferri." 

1 46 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

to recover that part of Marseilles of which the 
Austrasians were in possession afforded JEgidius 
an opportunity of forming a fresh alliance between 
Childebert and Chilperic x ; and he himself headed 
an embassy to the Neustrian court with this object. 
Chilperic gladly accepted his nephew's overtures, 
and prepared to attack Guntram. The fortune of 
war, however, which had hitherto enabled him to 
make large additions to his own territory at the 
expense of his kinsmen, now deserted him. He 
besieged Bourses without success. His general De- 
siderius was beaten by the Burgundians ; and when 
Chilperic hastened in person to meet his brother in 
the field, he suffered a reverse which greatly cooled 
his warlike and predatory ardour. Xor were his 
allies at all inclined to help him out of his diffi- 
culties. The great body of the Austrasians, and a 
party even among the seigniors, were averse to 
an alliance with Chilperic and Fredegunda, the real 
object of which they believed to be the increase of 
Neustrian — in other words Roman — influence in 
their own government. On the news of Chilperic's 
discomfiture a violent mutiny broke out in the army 
of Childebert against the authors of the war, and 
especially against iEgidius, who narrowly escaped the 
fury of the soldiers by the fleetness of his horse, 
leaving one of his slippers on the road in the hurry 
of his flight. 2 

Brunhilda for the time regained her ascendancy ; 

1 Greg. Tm\ vi. 31. 2 j\y u \ % 


and Chilperic expecting, as a matter of course, to see 
his late enemy and his late ally unite for his destruc- 
tion, made great preparations to meet them. The 
looked for attack was not made, but in the same year 
Chilperic himself died, or, as Gregory has it, " poured 
forth his wicked spirit " beneath the hand of an 
assassin, named Falca, as he was riding through a 
forest in the neighbourhood of Paris. 

Gregory of Tours appears to be ignorant of the 
instigators and perpetrators of this crime ; but, ac- 
cording to a romantic story, the minuteness of which 
is very suspicious, Chilperic fell a victim to the 
treachery of her for whose sake he had dared and 
sinned so much. Amon^ the numerous lovers of 
Fredegunda was the Major-Domus Laudericus 1 , whose 
intimate relation to his queen was accidentally dis- 
covered by Chilperic while on a hunting expedition 
at Chelles. Fredegunda quieted the fears of her 
lover by promising to send murderers to attack her 
husband as he was dismounting from his horse ; 
which was done accordingly. 2 

Brunhilda, very naturally, wished to take the 
opportunity afforded by Chilperic's death of making 
reprisals in the enemy's country, and of avenging 
herself on her implacable and now widowed rival 
Fredegunda. But Guntram, who had good reasons 
for desiring that neither Austrasia nor Neustria 

1 Gest. Reg. Frct)ic.35.: " Vir efficax atque strenuus, quern memo- 
rata Regina diligebat multum, quia luxuria comraiscebatur cum ea." 

2 Greg. Tur. vi. 46. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. 93. Gest. 
Reg. Franc. 35. 



148 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IT. 

should become too powerful, came forward on this 
occasion to protect one, whom at another time he had 
called "the enemy of God and man." Shortly before 
Chilperic's death (in a. d. 584) Fredegunda had borne 
a son, whom, though the popular voice assigned him 
another father, Chilperic appears to have acknow- 
ledged as his heir. Her first endeavour therefore was 
to induce her brother-in-law to act as sponsor to this 
child, by which she thought that both his legitimacy 
would be established and his succession to the throne 
secured. Guntram did actually proceed, in the Christ- 
mas of a.d. 585, from Orleans to Paris, to fulfil her 
wishes in this respect. But, according to Gregory's 
account, when Guntram was prepared to take part in 
the ceremony, the child was not forthcoming. Three 
times was the Burgundian king summoned to be pre- 
sent at the baptism of Clotaire, and three times was 
he obliged to leave Paris, without seeing his intended 
godchild ; and under these circumstances he thought 
himself justified in suspecting the infant king's legiti- 
macy. As he uttered in the most public manner his 
complaints of Fredegunda' s conduct, and his unfavour- 
able impressions concerning the child, the queen, in 
the presence of three bishops, three hundred of the 
chief men in her kingdom, and probably of the King 
of Burgundy himself, solemnly swore that Clotaire was 
the son of Chilperic. 1 Yet Guntram's suspicions were 
not altogether laid to rest 2 , nor was the child baptized 
before a. d. 591. 3 He immediately, however, assumed 

i Greg. Tur. viii. 1,9. 2 Ibkl< ix< 2 Q. 

3 Ibid. x. 23. 


the office of the young king's guardian and adminis- 
trator of the kingdom, and occupied Paris with his 
troops. 1 Childebert, who hastened too late in the 
same direction, though grievously disappointed at the 
turn which things had taken, still hoped to induce 
his uncle to share the spoil that fortune had thrown 
in their way, and sent an embassy to Paris, which had 
become the Neustrian capital. He reminded Guntram 
through these envoys how much they had both suf- 
fered from the rapacity of Chilperic, and urged him at 
least to lend his aid in demanding back all that had 
been unjustly and violently taken from them. But 
Fredegunda in the meantime had not been idle. She 
had disclosed to Guntram the terms of a treaty which 
had no long time before been made between the 
seigniors of Childebert and the seigniors of Chilperic 
for the partition of Burgundy. He knew therefore the 
degree of confidence which could be placed in his 
nephew's ambassadors. He was able to display be- 
fore their astonished eyes the very document which 
proved them to be traitors to their own master, to 
himself, and in fact to the whole Merovingian Dy- 
nasty. They were dismissed with a decided refusal. 
Childebert sent the same persons back again to 
Paris to demand that " the murderess of his father, 
uncle, aunt," and others, should be delivered up to 
him for punishment. To this message Guntram re- 
plied with more respect, but still refused compliance ; 
declaring his intention of referring the matter to a 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 5. 

L 3 

150 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

grand council to be held at Paris. 1 In the meantime 
Clotaire was proclaimed king, probably at Vitry. 

The relations between Childebert and his uncle now 
became unfriendly, and actual hostilities were com- 
menced, which appear to have resulted unfavourably 
for the former. The council which Guntram had 
summoned for A. d. 585 was eagerly looked forward 
to ; and when it met, iEgidius, Guntram-Boso, Sige- 
wald and others, — who were now well known to be 
plotting the downfall of their own sovereign and of 
the King of Burgundy, and whose real object was to 
separate them as widely as possible, — appeared as the 
representatives of Childebert. They demanded, as 
before, the restoration of the territories which had 
belonged to Charibert, and the punishment of Frede- 
gun da for her numerous crimes. As both parties had 
determined on their course beforehand, the discussion 
between Guntram and the Austrasian envoys soon 
degenerated into altercation and abuse ; and when the 
latter left the court with threats of vengeance, the 
enraged king ordered them to be pelted with horse- 
dung, musty hay, and mud. 2 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 6, 7. 

2 Grreg. Tur. vii. 6, 7. 14. (The provocation given to Guntram 
was great. The ambassadors had ridiculed him for saying that 
the father of Gundobald was a miller and a woolcomber, and 
warned him that the axe which had fallen on the heads of his 
brothers was ready for him): " « Ergo duos, ut adseris, patres hie 
homo habuit, lanarium simul molendinariumque. Absit a te, Rex, 
ut tarn inculte loquaris !'.... Dehinc cum multi solverentur in 
risu, respondit alius legatorum, dicens, ' Valedicimus tibi, Rex, 
nam quia reddere noluisti civitates nepotis tui. scimus salvam 


Fredegunda underwent a mock trial on this occa- 
sion, and was of course acquitted. Though the suspi- 
cions of the whole assembly rested on herself, she was 
asked to name the person whom she believed to be 
the murderer of her husband. She fixed on Chilperic's 
chamberlain Eberulf, out of revenge, as Gregory tells 
us, because he had refused to live with her. The 
unhappy man escaped into sanctuary for a time, but 
was subsequently seized and put to death by order of 
Guntram. 1 

It became evident at this time to the astute Bur- 
gundian, for reasons which we shall proceed to 
explain, that nothing but a real, hearty, and lasting 
alliance between himself and Childebert could save 
them from falling a prey to the machinations of the 
turbulent and aspiring seigniors. 

The period at which we have now arrived is re- 
markable in Frankish history as that in which the 
rising Aristocracy began to try its strength against 
the Monarchy. The royal power of the Merovingians, 
forced, as will be seen hereafter, into rapid growth 
by peculiarly favourable circumstances, culminated in 
the joint reigns of Chilperic, Guntram, and Sigebert. 
The accumulation of property in the hands of a few, 
as described in a subsequent chapter, and the con- 
sequent loss of independence by the great mass of 
the poorer freemen, were fatal to the stability of 
the Merovingian throne. A privileged and powerful 

esse securim, quas fratrum tuorum capitibus est defixa : celerius 
tuum librabit defixa cerebrum.'" 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 21. 29. 

i. 4 

152 THE PRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

order of nobility was in process of formation, and 
was at this time strong enough to wage a doubtful 
war against both king and people. 1 The latter were 
on the side of the monarchy ; and, had the reins of 
government remained in able and energetic hands, 
the loyalty of the commons might have sustained the 
throne against all the attacks to which it was sub- 
jected. The murder of Sigebert had an extraordinary 
effect on the position of the contending parties, and 
did much to accelerate the downfall of the successors 
of Clovis. 

The enemies of Sigebert's infant successor were 
those of his own household, — the great landowners, 
the dignified clergy, the high officials of the kingdom, 
who seized the opportunity — afforded by the minority 
of the crown — of taking the entire administration 
into their own hands. The chief opponent of their 
wishes, by whose extraordinary vigour the downfall of 
the throne was retarded, though not prevented, was 
the widow of the murdered kino- Brunhilda. The 
misfortunes and sufferings of her checquered life, and 
the horrible death by which it was closed, were mainly 
owing to the intense hatred she excited by her op- 
position to the ambitious designs of the seigniors. 

The deeply rooted attachment of the people to the 
long-haired Salian kings rendered it dangerous for 
any party, however powerful, to pursue openly their 
designs against the monarchy; and we find that in 
all the rebellions which broke out at this period, the 

1 The people hated the seigniors, and frequently rebelled against 
their tyrannical authority. Greg. Tur. vi. 31. 


malcontents were headed by some real or pretended 
scion of the Merovingian stock. The plan so fre- 
quently adopted by aristocracies in their struggle 
with royalty, of setting up a pretender to the crown, 
was resorted to during the minority of Sigebert's son, 
Childebert II., and not without effect. 1 The person 
fixed on on this occasion was generally known by the 
name of Gundobald, though King Guntram asserted 
that his real name was Ballomer, and that he was 
the son of a miller or a woolcomber. 2 The account 
which Gregory of Tours gives of him is interesting, 
and inspires a doubt, to say the least, whether he 
was not really, as he assumed to be 3 , the son of 
Clotaire I. by one of his numerous mistresses. The 
historian relates that Gundobald was born in Gaul, 
and carefully brought up according to the customs 
of the Merovingian family. His hair was allowed to 
grow long, as a mark of his royal descent; and, after 
he had received a liberal education, he was presented 
by his mother to king Childebert I., with these words : 
" Behold, here is your nephew, the son of King 
Clotaire. Since he is hated by his father, do you 
receive him, for he is your flesh and blood." Childe- 
bert, who was childless, received him kindly; but 
when Clotaire heard of it, he sent for the youth, and 
declaring that he had " never begotten him," 4 ordered 
him to be shorn. 

After the death of Clotaire I., Gundobald was pa- 

1 Several such pretenders occur in Frankish history. 

2 Greg. Tur. vii. 14. 3 Ibid. vii. 27. 4 Ibid. vi. 24. 

154 THE FRANKS. [Chai\ IV. 

tronised by King Charibert. Sigebert, however, once 
more cut off his hair, and sent him into custody at 
Cologne- Escaping from that place, and allowing his 
hair to grow long again, Gundobald took refuge with 
the imperial general Narses, who then commanded 
in Italy. There he married and had children, and 
went subsequently to Constantinople, where, as it 
would appear, he was received by the Greek Em- 
peror with every mark of respect and friendship. 
He was then, according to his own account, invited 
by Guntram-Boso to come to Gaul, and, having landed 
at Marseilles, was received by Bishop Theodore and 
the Patrician Mummolus. 1 

Such was the person fixed on by the mutinous 
grandees of Austrasia as a tool for the furtherance 
of their designs against the monarchy. Nor could 
they have found one better suited to their purpose. 
It is evident in the first place that he was himself 
fully persuaded of the justice of his own claims; a 
conviction which gave him a greater power of 
inspiring faith in others than the most consummate 
art. He was entirely dependent on the aid of the 
rebellious nobles for his chance of success, and would 
therefore, had he succeeded in effecting his purpose, 
have been bound by gratitude, as well as forced by 
circumstances, to consult the interests of those 
who had raised him to the throne. The fact of his 
residence at Constantinople, and the sanction of his 
claims by the Greek Emperor, were not without their 

1 Mummolus appears to have been an able and fortunate ge- 
neral. Greg. Tur. iv. 42. 46. 


weight. The prestige of the Roman Empire, as we 
observed above, had not yet entirely perished, nor 
had the Franks altogether ceased to look on Rome 
and Constantinople as the great fountains of power 
and honour. The nobles indeed intended that no one 
should really rule but themselves ; but as they could 
not do so in their own names, nothing would better 
have suited their views than to have a puppet king 
in nominal allegiance to a weak and distant emperor. 
Under such circumstances they alone, in the utter 
decay of the old German freedom and the popular 
institutions in which it lived, would have become 
possessors of the substantial power of the empire. 

The cause of Gundobald was much aided by the 
miserable jealousies existing between the different 
Frankish kings, who, instead of uniting their forces 
against their common enemy — the rising aristocracy 
— were eager to employ the pretender as a weapon 
of annoyance against each other. 

Among the chief actors in this conspiracy — though 
a secret one — was Guntram-Boso, a man whom Gre- 
gory quaintly describes as too much addicted to 
perjury *; so that he never took an oath to any of his 
friends which he did not afterwards break. " In 
other respects," adds the historian, he was " sane 
bonus ! " Gundobald relates, with every appearance of 
probability, that he met with Guntram-Boso while at 
Constantinople, — that the wily plotter informed 

1 Greg. Tur. v. 14. : " Nam ad perjuria nimiura prseparatus erat, 
verumtamcn nulli amicorum sacramintum dedit, quod non protinus 


156 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

him that the race of the Merovingians consisted of 
only three persons, Guntram of Burgundy, and his 
two Nephews (Childebert II., and the little son of 
Chilperic), and invited him to Gaul with the as- 
surance that he was eagerly expected by all the 
Austrasian magnates. u I gave him/ 7 says Gundo- 
bald, " magnificent presents, and he swore at twelve 
holy places that I might safely go to Gaul." 1 

On his arrival at Marseilles in a. d. 582, Gundobald 
was received by Bishop Theodore, who furnished him 
with horses, and by the Patrician Mummolus, whose 
conduct in withdrawing from the Burgundian court, 
and throwing himself with all his followers and 
treasures into the fortress of Avignon, had excited 
the suspicions of King Guntram. 

Gundobald joined him in that place, and was there 
besieged by the very man who had first invited him 
to Gaul, viz. Guntram-Boso. This double traitor 
had endeavoured to keep his treachery out of sight, 
and to stand well with both parties, until fortune 
should point out the stronger. His namesake Gun- 
tram of Burgundy, however, was not deceived, and 
took an opportunity of seizing Boso on his return 
from a journey to the court of Childebert. The Bur- 
gundian king openly charged him with having in- 
vited Gundobald to Gaul, and having gone to Con- 
stantinople for that very purpose. It now became 
necessary for Boso to take a decided part ; and, as 
the king would listen to no mere protestations, he 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 36. 


offered to leave his son as a hostage, and himself to 
lead an army to attack Mummolus and Gundobald in 
Avignon. The Pretender and the Patrician, however, 
defended themselves with so much skill and courage, 
that Guntram-Boso, with all his now sincere endea- 
vours to storm the town, could make no progress; 
and the siege was, singularly enough, raised by the 
troops of king Childebert II. 1 

This extraordinary interference of the youthful 
King of Austrasia in behalf of a pretender to his own 
crown, can hardly receive a satisfactory explanation; 
and the historian Gregory himself throws no light 
upon the mystery. It is not impossible that the 
Austrasian magnates, who were almost all more or 
less interested in the success of the conspiracy, may 
have blinded both the king and his mother Brun- 
hilda to the real objects of Gundobald; and we see that 
any one of the royal kinsmen would have gladly aided 
Gundobald, if they could have been sure that his 
claims were confined to the throne of his neighbours. 
The want of common action between the courts 
became still more evident in the sequel, and, but for 
the wisdom and vigour of Guntram, would have 
proved the ruin of the whole royal house. 

The murder of Chilperic in A. d. 584 renewed 
the hopes of Gundobald and his friends, by inflicting 
upon Neu stria the same evils of a minority from 
which Austrasia had already suffered so severely. 

A numerous party, including many of the ablest 
and boldest of the Austrasian seigniors, were openly 

1 Greg. Tur. vi. 26. 

158 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

or secretly attached to the Pretender's cause. He had 
gained possession of Angouleme, Perigord, Toulouse, 
and Bordeaux; and at Christmas a.d. 584 he was 
even raised on the shield at Brives (in Correze), and 
saluted with the royal title. 1 The Burgundian king 
now plainly saw that not only the throne of Childe- 
bert, but the whole Merovingian Dynasty, and even 
Monarchy itself, were at stake, and that, if the sui- 
cidal feud between himself and his nephew continued 
much longer, the success of the Pretender was by 
no means an improbable result. His first object, 
therefore, was to conciliate Childebert, and to lessen 
the influence which Brunhilda, on the one hand, and 
the great party of Austrasian nobles, who secretly 
favoured Gundobald, on the other, had hitherto exer- 
cised over his young and inexperienced mind. For- 
tune threw in Guntram's way the means of accom- 
plishing his purpose. Since the death of Chil- 
peric, and the acquittal of Fredegunda which had so 
greatly offended Brunhilda and her son, the cause 
of the Pretender was evidently prospering, and the 
greater part of the Austrasian seigniors were only 
waiting for a fair assurance of success to declare 
themselves openly in his favour. In a.d. 585 
Gundobald was in a position to send to Guntram 
regular ambassadors, furnished, after the Prankish 
custom, with consecrated rods in token of inviolabi- 
lity, to demand of him a portion of the kingdom of 

1 Greg. Ti/r. vii. 10. (An unfavourable omen was taken from 
an accident which occurred during this ceremony) : < ; Sed cum 
tertio cum eodem gyrarent cecidisse fertur, ita ut vix manibus 
circumstantium sustentari potuisset." 


" their common father Clotaire." Should this be re- 
fused, they said, " Gundobald will invade these terri- 
tories with a large army; for all the bravest men in 
Gaul beyond the Dordogne are in league with him." 
" And then," added Gundobald, by the mouth of his 
messengers, " when we meet on the field of battle, will 
God decide whether I am Clotaire's son or not." 1 

Guntram, who was no less bold than cunning, and 
by no means scrupulous, put the envoys of Gundo- 
bald to the torture, and made them confess in their 
agony that all the grandees of Childebert's kingdom 
were in secret understanding with the Pretender, and 
that Guntram-Boso had gone to Constantinople to in- 
vite him into Gaul. Nothing could be more oppor- 
tune for Guntram's purposes than this confession. He 
immediately reported it to his nephew, and begged 
him to come and hear it repeated by the unhappy 
envoys themselves. Childebert agreed to the pro- 
posed meeting, and heard, to his astonishment, the 
confirmation of his subjects' treachery. With a well- 
timed generosity, Guntram not only gave up all the 
points on which he and Childebert had been divided, 
and restored important possessions to the Austrasian 
crown, but presented his nephew to the Burgundian 
people and army, as the future heir of his throne. 
Placing his spear, one of the ensigns of Frankish 
royalty, in the hand of the young king, "This," said 
he, " is a sign that I have delivered my whole kingdom 
into your hands. Depart hence, and bring all my do- 
minions under your sway, as if they were your own." 2 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 32. 2 Greg. Tur. vii. .33. 

160 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

In a private conference he gave his nephew sound 
advice with respect to the choice of counsellors, 
warning him more particularly against iEgidius, the 
traitorous bishop of Rheims, and against Brunhilda, 
his own mother. He also begged him to hold no 
communication of any kind with Gundobald. 

This alliance was felt by the conspirators to be 
fatal to their cause. Many immediately deserted 
Gundobald, and those who still remained about his 
person, the chief of whom were Bishop Sagittarius, 
Dukes Mummolus and Bladastes, and Waddo the 
Major-Domus, fled with him to a town called Convenae, 
strongly situated on an isolated hill in the Pyrenees. 1 
The army of Guntram under Leudegisil, soon attacked 
the place with newly-constructed military engines, 
but with so little success, that, after a siege of some 
weeks, they found it necessary to offer terms to Mum- 
molus and the other leaders, on condition of their 
betraying Gundobald. 2 To this proposal no objec- 
tion was raised by the conspirators, who thought only 
of their own safety. They went to the unhappy 
Pretender, and advised him to throw himself on his 
brother's mercy, by whom they assured him he 
would be well received. Gundobald was not de- 
ceived by their specious representations : bursting 

1 St. Bertrand de Comminges. 

2 During the siege, the assailants ascended the hill on which 
the fortress stood, and reproached Gundobald with the meanness 
of his origin and his presumption. " Tunc es pictor ille, qui tem- 
pore Chlotacharii Regis per oratoria, parietes, atque cameras cara- 
xabas. Tunc es ille, quern Ballomerem nomine saipius Galliarum 
incoLne vocitabant." — Greg. Tur. vii. 36. 


into tears, he said, " By your invitation I came into 
Gaul ; but of my treasures, in which there is an im- 
mense weight of silver and gold and various costly 
rings, part is kept at Avignon and part has been 
stolen by Guntram-Boso. Next to God, I have based, 
all my hopes upon you, and have always expected 
to reign by your means. If ye have spoken falsely 
to me now, make up your account with God, for He 
himself shall judge my cause." 1 Mummolus assured 
him with an oath that he should take no harm, and 
persuaded him to leave the city, at the gate of which, 
he told him, brave men were waiting to receive 
him. He was then handed over to Olio, Count of 
Bourges, and Guntram-Boso, who murdered him in 
cold blood as he descended the precipitous hill on 
which the citj^ stood. The besieging army was soon 
after admitted into the town, the inhabitants were 
put to the sword, and even the priests were slain at 
the altars. 

Nor did the traitors, who sought their own safety 
by sacrificing the victim of their arts, escape the 
punishment they deserved. Guntram paid no atten- 
tion to the terms of their surrender, or the promise 
of pai'don held out to them, but ordered them all to 
be put to death. Bishop Sagittarius and Mummolus 
suffered at once ; the others met their fate at a later 

We have thought it worth while to give a 
more detailed account of this conspiracy, because it 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 38. 

162 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

was one of the most remarkable attempts of the 
nascent aristocracy to bring the crown into subser- 
viency to themselves — an object in which, at a subse- 
quent period, they fully succeeded. The account, too, 
of these transactions, as it stands in the pages of 
Gregory, gives us an insight into the state of so- 
ciety in that turbulent and chaotic period, when the 
bands of society were loosed, and treachery and vio- 
lence were resorted to even by those who were en- 
gaged to a certain degree on the side of iustice and 
legal authority. The degradation of the Church and 
its ministers is also brought painfully before us in 
the history of these times. Priests and bishops are 
among the conspirators, the perjurors, and the mur- 
derers; and so completely lose their sacerdotal cha- 
racter in the eyes both of king and people, that 
they are condemned to death by the one, and 
slaughtered at their altars by the other. 

For the moment the cause of royalty was trium- 
phant, and Brunhilda was enabled openly to take 
upon herself the guardianship of her still youthful 
son, and the administration of his kingdom. The 
spectacle of a woman reigning — and that woman 
Brunhilda, the energetic champion of royalty — soon 
gave rise to a renewal of the struggle in which she 

<- Co 

was engaged until her death. 

Xot more than two years after the death of 
Gundobald, the Austrasian and Xeustrian nobles 
united in a new conspiracy, the object of which was 
to put Childebert to death, to deprive Guntram of 
his kingdom, and to place the infant sons of the 


former on the vacant thrones of Austrasia and Bur- 
gundy. The seigniors sought in fact to hasten that 
minority of the crown which afterwards occurred, and 
proved so advantageous to their cause. This fresh 
attempt was headed by Rauching, Ursio, and Berte- 
fried (of whom we have spoken above), who intended 
to share the chief authority among themselves, under 
the pretence of administering the kingdom for the 
sons of Childebert. The increasing power of Brun- 
hilda, and her well-known desire of revenging the 
insults she had received at their hands, served to 
quicken their movements, and drove them prema- 
turely into rebellion. 1 In this case, too, a pretence 
of hereditary claims was set up, Rauching having 
given out that he also was a son of Clotaire. But 
the watchfulness of Guntram, who employed their 
own treacherous arts against themselves, completely 
frustrated their designs. 2 As soon as he had re- 
ceived secret intelligence of the plans of the conspira- 
tors, he sent a letter of warning to his nephew, who 
ordered Rauching to be summoned to the court, and 
had him killed as he left the royal chamber, where he 
had been received with treacherous kindness. The 
rebels appointed a new leader, but were unable to 
make head against Childebert's army. Ursio and 
Bertefried were defeated and slain ; Guntram-Boso 

1 Greg. Tur. ix. 8, 9. 

2 JEgidius having been found guilty of forgery, robbery, and 
Iccsa mcijestctSy was deprived of his bishopric and sent into exile. 
The Synod of Bishops did all they could on this occasion to save 
their erring brother. Greg. Tur. x. 19. 

m U 

164 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

also, who grovelled at the feet of Brunhilda with 
the most abject entreaties for his life, received at 
last the reward of his crimes. The house in which 
he had taken refuge with Magneric, Bishop of Treves, 
as set on fire by the order of King Guntram, and 
as he sought to escape, he was pierced by such a 
shower of javelins that his body stood erect, sup- 
ported by the bristling shafts. iEgidius alone con- 
trived to buy impunity for his treason with costly 

It was the fear of this new conspiracy of the 
seigniors that induced Guntram to draw still closer 
the bonds of amity and common interest which had 
of late united him to his nephew Childebert. In 
a. d. 587 they met again at Anlau (Andely, near 
Chaumont), to which place the young king, who was 
then seventeen years old, brought his mother Brun- 
hilda, his sister Chlodosuinth, his wife Faileuba, and 
two sons. After settling the long-pending disputes 
respecting the territory of Charibert, and other de- 
batable points, the two monarchs and Brunhilda en- 
tered into a solemn compact of alliance and friendship. 1 

The rebellious seigniors were for the time completely 
tamed by these numerous defeats and losses; and both 
Guntram and Childebert ruled their dominions, and 
disposed of the great offices of the State, with abso- 

1 Greg. Tier. ix. 20. (The treaty (pactio) is given in full, and 
is well worthy of perusal. The preamble contains the name of 
Brunhilda) : " Cum in Christi nomine praecellentissimi domni 
Guntchramnus et Childebertus Reges, et gloriosissima domna 
Brunichildis Regina," &c. 


lute authority. Summary punishment was inflicted 
on several of the rebellious seigniors, and especially 
on Ursio and Bertefried, who had made themselves 
conspicuous by their rancorous opposition to Brun- 
hilcla. 1 

We return from the foregoing digression to the 
death of Chilperic, who fell, as we have seen, by the 
hand of an assassin in the forest of Chelles, in a. d. 

The Prince who thus miserably ended his life, 
though enslaved by his passions and unbridled lusts 
to a faithless and cruel woman, was not altogether 
wanting in qualities which, if well directed, might 
have procured for him a more honourable memory. 
From the ecclesiastical historians, indeed, he meets 
with little quarter ; yet even their strongly biassed 
account of him shows that he possessed a more ori- 
ginal and cultivated intellect than was common among 
the princes of his time. The bitter denunciations of 
Gregory of Tours are evidently prompted by personal 
feelings, which it will not be difficult in some degree 
to account for. Mild and forgiving as we have found 
the historian to be in his judgment of monsters like 
Clovis and Clotaire, we cannot but read with astonish- 
ment the unmeasured terms of invective with which 
he speaks of Chilperic ; especially as it was open to 
him, had he been charitably inclined, to have as- 
cribed the majority of his evil deeds to the influence 

■ Greg. Tur. ix. 12. 

M 3 

166 THE FKANKS. [CtfAP. IV. 

of Frede^unda. 1 He calls him " the Nero and Herod 
of our times/' and says that he devastated whole 
regions with fire and sword, and derived the same 
pleasure from the misery he caused as Nero from the 
flames of Borne. 2 " He was given up to gluttony," 
continues Gregory, " and his god was his belly; yet 
he maintained that no one was wiser than himself, 
and composed two books, in which he took the poet 
Sedulius as his model. His feeble verses accorded 
with no measure, since, from want of understanding, 
he put shorts for longs, and longs for shorts. He 
also wrote other works, as hymns and masses. " 3 

The unpopularity of Chilperic among the ecclesias- 
tical historians proceeded not entirely from the 
cruelty and lasciviousness of his character, but in a 
greater degree, perhaps, from the fact that he failed 
in the respect which the clergy exacted from the 
laity, and that he meddled with theological ques- 
tions. Gregory himself came several times into 
direct collision with Chilperic, and certainly did not 
conceal his displeasure at the conduct and opinions 
of the king. " Against no one," says Gregory, " did 
he direct so much ridicule and so many jokes, in his 
private hours, as the bishops ; one of them he called 
proud, another frivolous, another luxurious — hating 
nothing so much as the churches. For he frequently 
said, c Lo ! our treasury remains empty. Lo ! our 

1 " Chilpericus magis uxorius quam sasvus fuit." — Ruinart. 
Prof at. in Greg. Tur. (ap. Bouquet, ii. p. 115.). 

2 Greg. Tur. vi. 46. 

3 Ibid. 


wealth is transferred to the churches. None really 
reign but the bishops.' " l 

Contemptuously as the historian speaks of his 
royal master's prosody, and his other literary labours, 
it is evident from Gregory's own pages that Chilperic 
was possessed of considerable erudition for the age in 
which he lived. Amongst other things, he added four 
new letters to the alphabet, and gave orders that 
they should be taught to the children throughout the 
kingdom, and that all ancient manuscripts should be 
rewritten in accordance with the new system, When 
Gregory himself was charged with treason, and of 
having accused the queen of committing adultery 
with the Archbishop of Bordeaux, the king addressed 
the council in such a manner, " that all admired his 
wisdom and patience." 2 

Chilperic has been compared to Henry VIII. of 
England, to whom, in many points of his character 
and life, he certainly bore a very remarkable re- 
semblance. Like Henry, Chilperic, notwithstanding 
his cruelty, was evidently not unpopular with the 
great mass of his subjects. 3 The Frankish king had 
indeed only three wives, and was directly concerned 

1 Gre£. Tur. vi. 46. Conf. Fortunati Carm. lib. ix. 1. : 

" Doctrince studio vincis et omne genus, 
Regibus cequalis, de carmine major haberis." 

2 Greg. Tur. v. 45. : " Addidit autem et litteras litteris nostris, 
id est w, sicut Grceci habent, ae, the, uui, quarum characteres sub- 
scripsimus. Hi sunt io, \p, Z, A." He gave orders, " ut libri an- 
tiquitus scripti, planati pumice rescriberentur." 

3 Greir. Tur. v. 50. 

M 4 

J 68 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

in the death of only one ; but, like his English bro- 
ther, he was eminently lascivious; and j:io one in- 
ferior in personal and mental gifts to Fredegunda, or 
less deeply versed in meretricious arts, could have 
retained so long a hold upon his affections. Both 
kings were sensible to mental as well as sensual 
pleasures, and desirous of literary fame. Though 
they lived in the daily violation of God's law and 
every principle of our Redeemer's religion, they 
were both extremely concerned about the purity of 
Christian doctrines, and wrote works in support of 
their opinions. The theological career of our own 
king is well known to have been a most successful 
one. He made himself for the time the fountain 
of pure doctrine as well as honour, and those who 
differed from him had the fear of Smithfield before 
their eyes. It was far otherwise with the Frankish 
king, who lived in a very different age. Chilperic 
wrote a work upon the Trinity, from Gregory's 
description of. which it would seem that the king 
was inclined to the Sabellian heresy. He denied the 
distinction of persons in the Godhead, and declared 
that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were the same 
person. He was naturally desirous of having his 
doctrines preached throughout his dominions ; and 
after causing his dissertations to be read to Gregory 
of Tours, he said, " Thus I wisli that you and the 
other teachers of the Church should believe." The 
bishop, however, on this as on many other occasions, 
steadily resisted the king, and endeavoured to con- 
fute him by argument. The king angrily declared 


that he would explain the matter to wiser men, who 
would, no doubt, agree with him. On which the 
bishop, with a freedom which is hardly consistent 
with his description of Chilperic as the Nero and 
Herod of his age, replied, "It will never be a wise 
man, but a fool, who is willing to assent to your 
proposition." A few days afterwards, the king ex- 
plained his opinions to Salvius, Bishop of Alby, who, 
so far from giving them a more favourable reception, 
declared that if he could but lay hands on the paper 
in which those writings were contained, he would 
tear them in pieces. " And so," adds the historian, 
" the kino; desisted from his intentions." l 

So powerful, brave, and turbulent a nation as the 
Franks could not remain loni>; without making their 
influence felt beyond the limits of their own country ; 
and the state of Italy and the Eastern Empire was 
eminently favourable to their aggressive tendencies. 
About three years before the Treaty of Anlau, the 
Greek emperor, Maurice, being hard pressed in Italy 
by the Arian Langobards, applied for aid to the 
Franks, as the most orthodox and powerful of all the 
German tribes. He knew them too well, however, 
to rely solely on their theological predilections, and 
offered them 50,000 solidi if they would cross the 
Alps and come to his assistance, which they readily 
promised to do. 2 

There is something very exciting to the imagina- 
tion in the account of the relation and intercourse 

1 Greg. Tur. v. 45. 

2 Ibid. vi. 42. Paull. Diacon. iii. 17, 21, 22. 

170 THE FRANKS. [Chain IV. 

between the pompous, formal, verbose, and over- 
civilised Byzantine emperors — with their high-sound- 
ing but unmeaning titles, — and the u rough and 
ready " kings of the Franks, whose actual power was 
far greater than its external insignia announced. 
Childebert addressed the gorgeous but feeble mon- 
arch whom he is called upon to save from a kindred 
tribe of Germans, as " Dominus gloriosus ac semper 
Augustus." In still loftier style does the Greek 
emperor speak of himself, in the commencement of 
his letters, as " Imperator Ccesar Flavius Mauritius 
Tiberius, Fidelis in Christo, Mansuetus, Maximus, 
lieneficus, Pacificus, Allemanicus, Gothicus, Anticus, 
Vandalicus, Erulicus, Gepidicus, Africanus, Felix, 
Inclitus, Victor ac Triumphator semper Augustus ! " 
while Childebert is simply addressed " Childeberto 
viro glorioso regi Francorum." L Yet the position of 
these sublime Greek potentates was such that they 
were compelled to lean for support on a prop they 
affected to despise. The policy they were pursuing, 
in thus calling a warlike, ambitious, and unscru- 
pulous people into Italy, was a critical one ; but they 
had sufficient grounds for preferring the alliance of 
the Franks to that of the Lombards, both in the 
common Catholicity of the former, and in their dis- 
tance from the imperial dominions, which made both 
their friendship and their enmity less dangerous. 

In a. d. 584, when he was not above fourteen 
years of age, Childebert proceeded to perform his 

1 A[>. Da Cliesne, Hist. Franc. Scrip, i. Ep. 25. 


part in the contract with the Emperor Maurice, and 
led an army across the Alps with the intention of 
attacking the Langobards. The latter were no 
match for the Franks ; nor did they imagine them- 
selves to be so. They saw at once that they could 
only avoid destruction by bending to the storm, and 
disarming hostility by complete submission. Childe- 
bert and his followers were plied with magnificent 
gifts, to which the Franks, like all half-civilised 
nations, were peculiarly susceptible ; and not only 
refrained from doing any injury to the Langobards, 
but contracted a friendly alliance with them. 1 The 
Emperor Maurice heard, to his astonishment, that 
the Franks had retired into Gaul without striking 
a blow, enriched by presents from both parties. In- 
censed at their treachery, he applied for restitu- 
tion of the 50,000 solidi paid in advance for the 
expulsion of the Langobards. To this application 
Childebert returned no answer at all, — a course 
which, under the circumstances, was perhaps not 
the worst he could have taken. In the following 
year, however, the Austrasian king, who was quite 
impartial in his bad faith, sent word to the emperor, 
that he was now ready to perform his promise. 
Accordingly, after a vain attempt to induce his 
uncle Guntram to take part in the expedition, he 
advanced alone against his newly-made friends, the 
Langobards, from whom he had so lately parted in 
perfect amity. The latter, however, far from giving 

1 Greg. Tur. vi. 42. Hist. Franc. Epit. per Fred. 92. 

172 THE FRANKS- TChap. IV. 

themselves up to fancied security, had spent the 
interval in preparing for the attack of their venal 
and fickle friends. The Franks, on the other hand, 
had fallen into the error of despising an enemy who 
had so unresistingly yielded to them in the former 
year. They advanced with confidence into Italy, 
hoping, perhaps, to return as before laden with the 
price of their forbearance — but they were miserably 

On their approach, King Autharis and his Lango- 
bards advanced to meet them in good order and with 
great alacrity, and gave the over-confident Austrasians 
a bloody and decisive defeat. * 

A fresh invasion of Italy by the Franks took place in 
a. d. 590, when Childebert is said to have sent twenty 
generals at the head of as many divisions of his army. 
Yet even this great effort, though at first apparently 
successful, was without any lasting results. 2 After 
the greater part of the invading force had perished 
by famine and dysentery, a peace was made through 
the good offices of King Guntram 3 who had wisely 
kept himself aloof. In the same year in which this 
peace was concluded, Autharis, King of theLangobards, 
died, and was succeeded by Agilulf, whom the na- 
tion placed upon the throne on his marriage with the 

1 Greg. Tur. ix. 2.5. Conf. Paullus Diacon. (iii. 29.), who gives a 
somewhat different view of these occurrences. 

2 Greg. Tur. x. 3. Paulh Diac. iii. 31. Paullus gives along list 
of towns in Italy which were taken and plundered by the Franks. 

3 PaulL Diac. iii. 34. Guntram is described as " Rex paci- 
ficus, ct omni bonitate con<picuus." Ibid. iv. 1. : " Quos Bruni- 
chiklis Kcgina Fruncorum ex proprio pretio redemerat." 


widowed Queen Theudelinda. The new king lost no 
time in confirming the treaty which his predecessor 
had made; and sent ambassadors for that purpose to 
the Australian court ; directing them also to restore 
some captives whom Brunhilda had ransomed with 
her own money. 

A considerable time elapsed before the Franks 
were again in a condition to carry on a distant war ; 
but their attention was never afterwards wholly 
withdrawn from Italy — a land whose beauty has in 
all times roused the lust of conquest. They in- 
stinctively felt that it would not be safe to allow 
that country to fall under the dominion of the Greek 
emperors, whose traditions prompted them to con- 
stant efforts to change their empty titles into the 
realities of universal empire. 

At the death of his uncle Guntram, in April a.d. 593, 
Childebert succeeded to the kingdom of Burgundy, 
according to the above-mentioned Treaty of Anlau. 
This new accession of territory appears to have 
awakened in him the desire and hope of obtaining 
the sole sovereignty of the Frankish empire ; for we 
find him almost immediately afterwards attacking 
his cousin Clotaire II. 1 His attempt to seize the 
city of Soissons was foiled by the skill and conduct 
of Fredegunda. A bloody engagement soon after- 
wards ensued between the two youthful kings, at the 
head of their respective forces, in which 30,000 men 
are said to have fallen without any decisive result. 

1 Fredeg. Chron. xiv. (ap. Bouquet, torn, ii.) Paull. Diac. iv. 4. 

174 THE PRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

The last great military event of the reign of Chil- 
debert was the defeat and almost complete destruc- 
tion of the Varni ; who, according to some accounts, 
lived among the Thuringians, but whom Procopius 
represents as inhabiting the country lying between 
the Elbe and the Rhine. In a. d. 595 they rebelled 
against the Franks, and received so terrible a chas- 
tisement, that from this time forward they altogether 
disappear from history. 1 

In the following 3-ear Childebert died, at the age of 
twenty-six, by poison, together with his wife Faileuba. 
His elder son, Theudebert, though of illegitimate 
birth, succeeded peaceably to the kingdom of Aus- 
trasia ; while Theoderic, the younger, who was but 
nine years old, received Burgundy and some ter- 
ritories hitherto attached to Austrasia, viz., Alsace, 
the Sundgau (about the sources of the Meuse), the 
Tulgau (about Toul and Bar le Due), and part of 
Champagne, with Orleans as his capital. 

And thus, by a singular dispensation of Providence, 
Brunhilda, the guardian of the infant kings, became 
once more virtual ruler of the greater part of the 
Frankish Empire, while Neustria was still under the 
influence of her implacable enemy and hated rival 
Fredegunda. Brunhilda took up her residence at 
Metz, intrusting the administration of Burgundy to 
her friends. 

Under such auspices, it was not likely that the two 
kingdoms should remain long at peace. Both sides pre- 

1 Fred. Chron. xv. Paul!. Diac. iv. 11. Fred. Chron. xvi. 


pared for war, and a great battle is said to have been 
fought at Latofaus (Liffou), which has been variously 
placed on the Seine in the diocese of Sens, and on 
the Meuse at Neufchateau, in the province of Lor- 
raine. The battle was fierce and bloody, and, though 
not very decisive, appears to have been favourable 
to the Neustrians. 1 But the hopes of triumph and 
long-desired vengeance which may have been kindled 
thereby in the bosom of Fredegunda were now chilled 
for ever by the hand of death. In a. d. 597, her 
envious and restless spirit, which through life had 
been excited and tortured by every violent and 
wicked passion, was for the first time laid to rest. 

Of the beauty, talent, and extraordinary energy of 
this remarkable woman, there can be no doubt; but if 
we are to believe one half the stories which her con- 
temporary, Gregory of Tours, relates of her — as it 
were incidentally, and without any appearance of 
antipathy or passion — we must ascribe to Fredegunda 
a character unsurpassed by either sex in the annals 
of the world for cruelty and baseness. 

In such a character, the sins which would consign 
the generality of women to infamy — incontinence 
before marriage and tenfold adultery after it — appear 
but trifling : we are astonished to find a touch even 
of guilty tenderness in a heart so black and stony. 
By the sacrifice of her honour to the irregular pas- 
sions of Chilperic, she rose, if we may call it so, from 
the obscure position in which she was born, and 
gained an entrance into the palace. 2 Through the 

1 Fred. Chron. xvii. 2 Ex Adon. Chron. ad an. 567. 

176 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

blood of the ill-fated Galsuintha, Brunhilda's sister, 
she waded to the throne. Having induced Chilperic — 
who, whatever he was to others, was certainly a 
Gracious kin£ and loving husband to her — to murder 
his royal bride, and publicly marry herself, she was 
continually at his ear suggesting and urging the 
commission of the crimes which have branded his 
name with infamy. 

Her whole life, after her elevation to the throne, 
appears to have been passed in planning and exe- 
cuting murder. We have seen the means by which 
she succeeded in removing Sigebert from her path; 
and both Brunhilda and her children were the con- 
stant object of her secret machinations. In a. d. 
584, when she was at the village of Rueil *, grieved 
at the growing power of Brunhilda, " to whom she 
considered herself superior," she sent a confidential 
priest to her with instructions to represent himself 
as a fugitive from the Neustrian court, and, after 
ingratiating himself with his intended victim, to take 
an opportunity of killing her. This artful scheme 
was nearly successful ; but the intended assassin was 
accidentally detected, and dismissed to his patroness 
with no other punishment than a richly-deserved 
flagellation. Fredeguncla, however, when she heard 
that his mission had failed, fully made up for the 
clemency of Brunhilda by ordering his hands and 
feet to be cut off. 2 

In the following year she renewed her attempts, and 

1 Near the confluence of Seine and Eure. 2 Greg. Tur. vii. 20. 


prepared two knives, which she dipped in deadly 
poison and gave to two priests, with these instruc- 
tions : " Take these weapons, and go with all pos- 
sible speed to King Childebert, pretending that 
you are mendicants : and when you have thrown 
yourselves at his feet, as if demanding alms, stab him 
in both his sides, that Brunhilda, whose pride is 
founded upon him, may at length fall with him and 
be subordinate to me ; but if there is so strong a 
guard about the boy that you cannot approach him, 
then kill my enemy herself." Notwithstanding the 
great promises she made to themselves, should they 
escape, and to their families if they died in the at- 
tempt, the priests " began to tremble, thinking it very 
difficult to fulfil her commands." Fredegunda then 
primed them with an intoxicating potion, under the 
influence of which they promised all that she desired. 
She also gave them some of the liquor to take with 
them, directing them to use it just before the com- 
mission of the murder. 1 

But it was not merely against what we may call 
her natural enemies that her murderous arts were di- 
rected. We have seen that she was charged with being 
the murderess of her husband ; and though this may 
be doubtful, yet she certainly compassed the murder 
of Clovis, her stepson, by inventing the most horrible 
calumnies against him ; and she endeavoured to kill 
her own daughter Rigunthis, by forcing down the lid 

1 Greg. Tur. viii. 29. 


178 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

of an iron chest upon her neck. 1 Her mode of 
settling a dispute, according to Gregory's account, 
has in it something almost comically cruel. A feud 
having arisen between two families in Tournai, in 
consequence of an unfortunate matrimonial alliance, 
the contending parties were frequently admonished 
by Fredegunda to desist from their contention and 
live in concord. When her exhortations proved 
fruitless, she adopted a more effectual means of pacify- 
ing them. " Having invited a great number of persons 
to a banquet, she caused the three who were principally 
concerned in the feud to occupy the same couch at the 
table. When the feast had been prolonged till night- 
fall, the table was removed, according to the Frankish 
custom, and the three guests reclined on the seat on 
which they had been placed. Their servants as well 
as themselves had drunk to excess, and were sleeping 
wherever they happened to fall. Three men armed 
with axes were then placed behind the couch, and 
the three occupants struck dead by simultaneous 
blows." 2 

Her last crime appears to have been the murder of 
Praetextatus, Bishop of Rouen, who, on one occasion, 
sharply rebuked her for her evil life, and exhorted 
her to repentance and amendment. The Queen 
withdrew felle fervens, and procured his murder on 
Easter Sunday, a.d. 590, when he was struck down 

1 Greg. Tur. ix. 34. The enmity between Fredegunda and 
her daughter is said to have arisen " quia Regunthis adulteria 
sequebatur ! '' 

2 Ibid. x. 27. 


by an assassin while engaged in the duties of his 
office. No sooner had he been removed, mortally 
wounded, to his bed, than Fredegunda came to visit 
him with hypocritical promises to avenge his death, 
if she could discover the murderer. But the bishop 
was not deceived, and when the treacherous queen 
begged permission to send a skilful physician to his 
aid, he replied, " God hath already ordered me to be 
summoned from the world ; but thou who art found 
out to be the principal actor in these evil deeds wilt 
be accused for ever, and God will visit my blood 
upon your head." * 

This daring as well as dreadful deed excited great 
indignation among the Frankish seigniors ; and one of 
them, who was bold enough to denounce Fredegunda 
to her face and to threaten her with the consequences, 
was soon afterwards taken off by poison. 

To say that she committed many other murders, 
which want of opportunity and power alone prevented 
her from doubling ; that she brought false accusations 
against all who displeased her ; that she ground the 
poor with intolerable taxes ; that she attempted the 
life of her benefactor Guntram, who foolishly and 

1 Greg. Tur. viii. 31. We can now appreciate the fitness of 
Fortunatus for the post of Poet Laureate. In the following lines 
he is speaking of Fredegunda : — 


Provida consiliis, sollers, cauta utilis aula3, 
Ingenio pollens, rnunere larga placens, 
Omnibus excellens merit is, Fredegundis opiina, 
Atque serena suo, fulget ab ore dies." 

Fortuuat ix. carni. 1. 

N 2 

180 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

wickedly maintained her cause when she was most in 
need of his assistance — will scarcely add one shade to 
the blackness of the character we have attempted to 
portray. A moiety of her crimes would be suffi- 
cient to stamp her as the Messalina and the Borgia of 
her ao;e. 

The traitorous faction of Austrasian seigniors, 
though for the time kept down by the vigour of 
Brunhilda and the prudence of Guntram, had never 
ceased from their intrigues, and succeeded at last, 
in a. d. 599, in persuading the youthful Theudebert 
to banish his grandmother from his court. The 
persecuted queen, like another Lear, took refuge 
with her other grandchild, Theoderic of Burgundy, 
and was courteously received by him. It is a re- 
markable fact, and speaks well for the young kings, 
and still better for the aged Brunhilda, that no 
breach of friendly intercourse between the two 
courts took place in consequence of this event* 

The unity of the Frankish kings generally showed 
itself in joint undertakings against their neighbours. 
Theudebert and Theoderic manifested their mutual 
affection by attacking their cousin Clotaire, in a. d. 
GOO, with their united forces ; and they deprived 
him 1 of all his dominions with the exception of the 
country which lies between the Seine, the Isere, 
and the ocean. They also directed their arms 
against the TTascones (or Gascons), a Spanish people 

i After a bloody victory over him at Dorrneilles on the Quaine 
('•super fluvium Aroannam, nee procul a Doromello vico"). Fred. 
Chron. xx. 


living in the Pyrenees, whom the nature of their 
country and their own love of freedom had enabled 
to remain independent of the Gothic conquerors. 
We mention them here because we shall meet with 
them again in the time of Charlemagne himself, 
in whose history they play no unimportant part. 1 
These expeditions seem to prove that the warlike 
spirit of Clovis had not yet died out of his de- 
scendants, though the physical deterioration of the 
race had already proceeded to a great length. 

Theuclebert, who had banished his grandmother, 
and put his wife Bilichildis to death, that he might 
marry another woman, is described as being na- 
turally a cruel prince ; while the faults of Theo- 
deric are ascribed to the evil counsels and influence 
of Brunhilda. She is accused of having prevented 
the young king from marrying, and of encouraging 
him in a course of vicious indulgences, in order to 
retain her influence at his court. Whether in con- 
sequence of the machinations of Brunhilda, or his 
own preference for promiscuous concubinage, it is 
certain that an attempt which the king made to 
live in lawful wedlock signally failed. 2 In a. d. 607 

1 Fredeg. Chron. xxi. 

2 St. Columban is said to have excited the wrath of Brunhilda 
by endeavouring to turn the young monarch from his evil ways : 
" Cumque jam ad viri Dei imperium Regis sermo obtemperaret, et 
se ab omnibus illicitis segregare sponderet, mentem Brunichildis 
avioe, secunda ut erat Jezebalis, antiquus anguis adiit, eamque 
contra virum Dei stimulatam superbias aculeo excitat. • • - 

N 3 

182 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

he formed an alliance with Hermenberga, daughter 
of Viteric, king of the Spanish Visigoths, but sent 
her back into Spain within the year of their mar- 
riage despoiled of the treasures she had brought 
into Gaul. The young king's conduct on this occa- 
sion, though quite in accordance with his character 
and habits, is ascribed to the influence of Brunhilda, 
who is represented as having purposely rendered Her- 
menberga odious in the eyes of her husband, that she 
might retain the position of which a lawful and be- 
loved wife must inevitably deprive her. Without at 
all intending to exculpate Brunhilda from the sin of 
ambition and the lust of power (and without power, 
be it observed, her life would not have been safe for 
a moment), we confess that we receive with great 
suspicion all that the works of Fredegar and the 
other historici contain respecting her. 1 No one 
can read these writers without observing; the hostile 
spirit in which they speak of her, and the satis- 
faction they derived from minutely detailing all 
that can redound to her disadvantage. This malevo- 
lent spirit is the more remarkable when we compare 
the passages in which the rival queens are spoken of; 
for notwithstanding the extraordinary baseness of 
Fredegunda, she appears to be viewed by the his- 
torians with aln^st an indulgent feeling. 

Verebatur eniin ne, si abjectis concubinis Reginaro aulas prsefe- 
cisset, dignitatis atque honoris sui mod am amputasset." — Fredeg. 
CI iron, xxxvi. 

1 "We ha\ e already V-.A the aid of Gregory of Tours, wlio^e 
work only extend* to a.l>> 591, 


The expulsion of Brunhilda by the King of Austrasia 
and her favourable reception by his brother was 
followed, as we have seen, by no immediate breach of 
their good understanding. Yet directly differences 
arose between them, they were ascribed to their un- 
fortunate grandmother ! Whatever part she may have 
played in the ensuing tragedy, it is plain that the 
main cause of their hostility was, as usual, mutual 
jealousy and covetousness. 1 The ceded territory 2 in 
Alsace and Lorraine, which Theudebert now wished 
to reunite to Austrasia, became an apple of dis- 
cord between the brothers. 3 Theoderic was com- 
pelled by a sudden inroad of the Austrasians to yield 
to their demands in a.d. 610; in revenge for which he 
spread a report that Theudebert was not the real son of 
Childebert, but a changeling. He also bought the neu- 
trality of Clotaire, who was not ill-pleased to see his 
rivals exhausting themselves in their efforts to de- 
stroy one another. He then boldly marched into 
Austrasia, and was met by Theudebert at the head 
of all his forces in the neighbourhood of Tull (or 
Toul), not far from Langres in Champagne. Theu- 
debert was defeated in a great battle which ensued, 
and fled through the Vosges mountains to Cologne. 
He was quickly followed by his brother, who resolving, 
in accordance with the advice of L^nisius, Bishop of 
Mayence, " beatus et Apostolicus" to destroy him 
utterly, led his forces through the forest of Ardennes 

1 Gesta Reg. Franc, xxxviii. 2 Vide p. 174. 

3 Fredtg. Chron. xxxvii. 


184 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

and took post at Ziilpich. 1 Theudebert, meanwhile, 
well aware that he could hope nothing even from 
entire submission, collected his scattered powers, and, 
having received reinforcements from the Saxon Thu- 
ringians, determined to hazard another battle. The 
conflict was long and doubtful, and bloody beyond 
the measure even of Frankish contests. Yet we can 
hardly receive literally the turgid expressions of 
Fredegar, who relates that the slaughter was so great, 
that the dying could not fall to the ground, but 
were propped up in an erect position between the 
heaps of slain. 2 Theoderic, " Domino prceeedente" 
was again victorious ; and having taken his brother 
captive, and stripped him of all the insignia of 
royalty, sent him to Chalons, where he was shortly 
afterwards put to death by the order, as some say, 
of Brunhilda. Merovseus, the infant son of the de- 
feated king, was at the same time dashed to pieces 
against a rock. 3 

Theoderic now took full possession of Australia, 
and was meditating an attack, with the united forces 
of his two kingdoms, upon Clotaire, when his fur- 
ther progress was stayed and the aspect of affairs 
entirely changed, by his sudden decease at Metz, in 
a.d. 613, in the twenty-sixth year of his age. 4 

1 " Diligens utilitatera Theodorici, et odiens stultitiam Theu- 

2 Fred. Chron. xxxviii. 

3 Gesta Reg. Franc, xxxviii. Conf. Paull. Diac. an. 612. 
Dom. Caroling. Genealog. (ap. Monuna. German, ed. Pertz, torn, 
ii p. 310.). 

4 Frcdeg. Chron. xxxix. : '• Profluvio ventris moritur." Chron. 


Nothing could be more unpromising for the future 
peace and strength of the united kingdoms of Aus- 
trasia and Burgundy than the circumstances in which 
they were placed at the death of Theoderic. He left 
behind him four sons ; Sigebert, Childebert, Corvus, 
and Merovaeus, the eldest of whom was born when 
his father was only fourteen years of age. The 
power of the seigniors had greatly increased during 
the late reign, and they now felt themselves strong 
enough to come boldly forward in resistance to the 
royal power. The extraordinary prolongation of the 
regency of Brunhilda, who now began to act as 
guardian of her great-grandchildren, was above all 
things hateful to the powerful and unscrupulous 
party, who knew her constancy and energy, and 
were ever on the watch for an opportunity to feed 
their vengeance on her ruin. They feared, or pre- 
tended to fear, that the young princes were but tools 
in the hands of the queen for the accomplishment of 
her own will, and the gratification of her cruelty and 
pride. They again accused her of purposely under- 
mining the bodily and mental vigour of her youthful 
charges by making them early acquainted with every 
enervating vice. The state of anarchy into which 
the kingdom had gradually been falling was the 

Moissiac. ad an. 613. Dom. Carol. Geneal. (Monurn.Germ. ii. 310.): 
* Ipse a Deo percussus.'' Adon. Chron. (ap. Bouq. ii. p. 669.). 
The death of Theoderic is here most unreasonably ascribed to 
the hand of Brunhilda. And, not content with charging her 
with a murder by which she of all persons would be the greatest 
loser, the chronicler adds : u filios ejus Brunichildis occidit" 

186 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

more complete at this period, because, while the power 
of the Merovingians had been greatly weakened, that 
of the mayors of the palace was not sufficiently 
established to ensure the blessing; of a strong govern- 
ment, and to make the personal character of the king 
a matter of small importance. The people at large, 
indeed, still clung with singular devotion to the Me- 
rovingian dynasty; and a long succession of royal 
weaklings and idiots, designedly paraded before them 
in all their imbecilitv, was needed to make them 
untrue to the house under whose earlier members 
their vast empire had been acquired, and their mili- 
tary glory spread throughout the world. 

The wish of Brunhilda was to place the eldest of 
Theoderic's sons upon the throne, but the party op- 
posed to her was too strong, and too thoroughly 
roused into action by the prospect of a continuance of 
her regency, to allow her a chance of success. She had 
the mortification too, while she herself was declining 
in years and strength, of seeing her enemies united 
under the leadership of the ablest and most in- 
fluential men in the empire, Bishop Arnulph and 
Pepin ; both of whom held subsequently the office of 
major-domus. 1 The fear and hatred which Brunhilda 
inspired among the seigniors were strong enough to 
overcome the antipathy existing between the Aus- 
trasians and Xeustrians ; and when the Austrasian 
seigniors found themselves unable to meet Brunhilda 
in the field with their own dependents alone, they did 

1 Fred. Chron. xl. 


not scruple to call upon Clotaire II. for aid, with the 
promise of making him monarch of the whole Frankish 
empire. Their objects in these traitorous measures 
are evident: they hoped, on the one hand, to weaken 
the monarchy by arraying the different branches of 
the royal family against each other; and, on the 
other, to acquire for themselves, under a ruler whose 
residence was in Neustria, the virtual possession of 
the government of Austrasia. The strong assurances 
of support which were made to Clotaire by Arnulph 
and Pepin, in the name of their party, were sufficient 
to induce him to lead his army to Andernach on the 
Rhine ; Brunhilda and her great-grandchildren being 
then at Worms. The aged queen was not deceived 
as to the real state of things, and knew too well the 
strength which the invading army derived from the 
treachery of her own subjects. At first, therefore, 
she made an appeal to the enemy's forbearance, and 
sending an embassy to the king at Andernach she 
besought him to retire from the territory which 
Theoderic had bequeathed to his children. 1 But Clo- 
taire was equally well informed with herself of the 
state of the Austrasian army, and was not likely to 
feel much compunction for the children of one who 
had threatened to dethrone him. His answer to 
Brunhilda's message was a significant hint at her 
want of power to withstand him. " Whatever," he 
sent word back, " the Franks themselves, by the 
guidance of God, shall determine upon, I am ready to 

1 Fredeg. Chron. xxxix. and xl. 

188 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

abide by." The answer was understood, and Brun- 
liilda wasted no more time in negotiations useful 
only to her enemies. She felt that all was lost but 
her own indomitable spirit, which neither age, nor 
the enmity of foes, nor the treachery of friends, were 
able to subdue. She despatched \Yerner, the Aus- 
tralian Major-Domus, with the young prince Sigebert, 
across the Rhine, to bring up the Thuringian Ger- 
mans, in whose courage and fidelity she had reason 
to confide. But AYerner himself had been tampered 
with, and purposely neglected to fulfil his mission. 
As a last resource, Brunhilda fled into Burgundy ; 
but there, too, the chief men both of the Church 
and the laity, were banded together against her ; and 
readily entered into a conspiracy with the traitor 
AYerner for the destruction of the whole royal house 
of Austrasia. 1 Sigebert, meantime, unconscious per- 
haps of the falsehood of those in whom he trusted 
for the protection of his helpless boyhood, advanced 
with his army against Clotaire, and encountered him 
between Chalons-sur-Marne and the river Aisne. Many 
of the Austrasian seigniors were at this time actually 
in the camp of the enemy, and of those who followed 
Sigebert multitudes were ea^er to desert. At the 
decisive moment, when an attempt was made to lead 
them into action, the Austrasians turned their backs 
without striking a blow, and, marching off the field, 

1 Fred. Chron. xli. : " Burgundioe Farones, tarn Episcopi quam 
cceteri L^u dt: s, timentes Brunichildeni, et odium in eam habentes — 
cum Warnachario consilium inientcs tractabant, ut neque unus ex 
fil'us Tlieuderici evaderct.*' 


retreated to the Saone, closely followed by Clotaire, 
who had good reasons for not attacking them. On 
the river Saone the mutiny in the camp of Sigebert 
became open and declared. The boy-king and his 
brothers were delivered up by their own soldiers 
into the hands of their enemies. Sigebert and Corvus 
were immediately put to death ; Childebert escaped, 
and disappears from the page of history; while Me- 
rovaeus, on account of some religious scruples in the 
mind of Clotaire, who was his godfather, was spared, 
and educated in a manner befitting his rank. 1 

Nothing, however, was eifected in the eyes of the 
rebellious and now triumphant seigniors, while their 
hated enemy Brunhilda remained alive. Though she 
could not at this time have been much less than seventy 
years old, she was an object of fear as well as hatred to 
thousands of mail-clad warriors in the full flush of 
victory. While the tragic fate of the young king was 
being decided on the banks of the Saone, Brunhilda 
was at Urba in Burgundy, with her grand-daughter 
Theodelinda. The defection of Werner and the 
mutiny of Sigebert's troops had left her without 
resources, and she was delivered up by the Constable 
Herpo into the hands of Clotaire and her numerous 
enemies ; who, not content with simply putting her to 
death, glutted their eyes upon her agonies during 
three days of cruel torture. She was led round the 
camp upon a camel, and exposed to the derision of 

1 Fred. Chron. xlii. : " Arapleetens amore, quod ipsum de sancto 
excepisset lavacro." 


the multitude ; and at last being bound hand and 
foot to a vicious horse, she was left to perish mise- 

We have already remarked upon the extreme 
difficulty of forming a fair judgment of the character 
of Brunhilda, arising from the unfavourable bias 
against her in the minds of the ecclesiastical writers 
of her day. We must remember that she had in- 
curred the bitter hostility of the great dignitaries of 
the Church, no less than of the lay seigniors, by her 
endeavours to check the growth of their inordinate 
wealth, and to curb their rising spirit of insubordina- 
tion. 1 The account given by Fredegar of her con- 
flict with Saint Columban, the Irish missionary, con- 
veys to us a very clear idea of the feelings of the 
clergy towards her ; and to oftend the clergy, the 
only chroniclers of that age, was to ensure historical 
damnation and an infamous immortality. 2 But in 

1 Montesquieu, Esj). des Lois, liv. xxxi. ch. i. : " II arriva que la 
Cour voulut revoquer les dons qui avoient ete faits ; cela coit un me- 
contentement generale dans la Nation, et Ton vit bientot naitre cette 
Revolution fanieuse dans l'histoire de France, dont la premiere 
epoque fut le spectacle etonnant du supplice de Brunehault." 
Conf. Fredeo;. Chron. xxvii. 

2 St. Columban refused his blessing to Brunbilda's great-grand- 
cbildren Sigebert, Childebert, &c. : " Cui Brunichildis ait, ' Regis 
sunt lilii, tu eos benedictione robora.' At ille ' Nequaquam,' 
inquit, ' istos regalia sceptra suscepturos scias : de lupanaribus 
emerserunt. Ilia furens parvulos abire jussit.' " Fred.Chron.xxxvi. 
In the Life of Columban, by the Abbot Jonas, the saint is said 
to have foretold the destruction of Brunhilda and her sfreat-erand- 
children, and the acee^ion of Clotaire to both the Frankish kine- 
doins. After hit, banishment by Theoderic and Brunhilda, he is 
said to have been well received by Theudcbert, who bid him 


Brunhilda's case, the zeal of her enemies outruns 
their discretion, and the very extravagance of their 
charges both excites suspicion and furnishes mate- 
rials for their refutation. Fredegar, in his chronicle, 
calls her " another Jezebel," and says that Clotaire's 
inordinate hatred of her arose from her having killed 
ten Frankish kings and princes. Fortunately for the 
reputation of the accused, Fredegar has mentioned 
the names of these ten royal victims; bat of these 
there is not one whose murder has not been ascribed 
to some other and far more probable agent, by better 
authorities than Fredegar. " Clotaire," says Mon- 
tesquieu, " reproached her with the death of ten 
kings, two of whom he had put to death himself; 
the death of some others must be charged upon the 
fate or wickedness of another queen ; and the nation 
which had allowed Fredeguncla to die in her bed, and 

choose a suitable place for a monastery. Columban fixed on 
Bregentz, which was at that time inhabited by a Suabian people. 
Soon after his arrival, while exploring the country, he came upon 
some of the inhabitants while they were in the act of performing 
a heathen sacrifice. They had a large vessel which they called 
cupa (kufe) which held about twenty pailsfull, filled with beer, 
standing in the midst of them. In reply to Columban's question 
what they going to do with it, they replied that they were going to 
sacrifice to Wodan (whom some call Mercury). When the Saint 
heard of this horrible work he blew on the cask, and, lo ! it was 
loosed, and flew into pieces with a loud noise, so that all the beer 
ran out. This made it evident that the Devil was in the cask, 
who wished to ensnare the souls of the sacrificers by earthly 
drinks. When the heathens saw this they were astonished, and 
said that Columban had a strong breath to burst a strongly bound 
cask. But he rebuked them in the words of the Gospel, and bid 
them go home. 

192 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

opposed the punishment of her flagrant crimes, should 
have beheld with the greatest calmness the sijis of a 
Brunhilda." l 

Amidst such palpable misrepresentations, it is dif- 
ficult to know what to believe, and hazardous to fix 
upon her any of the specific crimes with which she has 
been charged, To say that she was guilty of intrigue 
and violence is to say that she lived and struggled in 
an age and in a court where these were the only 
means of self-preservation. We see that she was 
ambitious, and crime was at that period more pecu- 
liarly the companion and assessor of power. Her 
desire of vengeance was roused at the very com- 
mencement of her career by injuries which only a 
saint could have forgiven. She had to struggle 
through her whole life with antagonists who beset 
her path with the dagger and the poison cup, and 
against whom she could not possibly have held her 
ground without sometimes turning their own detes- 
table weapons against themselves. That she com- 
mitted many crimes, therefore, which nothing can 
justify, though the circumstances of her life may in 
some degree palliate them, we cannot reasonably 
doubt. Yet even through the dark veil which hos- 
tile chroniclers have thrown over the character of 
Brunhilda, many traces may be discerned of what 
is noble, generous, and even tender, in her dispo- 
sition. Nor can we, while we read her history, 
suppress the thought, that she who died a death 

1 Montesq. Esp. des Lois, xxxi. 1. 



of torture amidst exulting foes, had that within her 
which in better times would have made her the 
ornament and the blessing of the country over which 
she ruled, and ensured her a niclie in the vast cata- 
combs of history among the wise, the great, and 
good. 1 

It is evident from the fact that the greatest pos- 
sible publicity was given to the horrid spectacle of 
Brunhilda's execution, that the hatred against her 
was not only intense but general ; for otherwise her 
enemies would not have run the risk of exciting the 
sympathy of the multitude in her nameless sufferings. 
And yet she would seem to have had all the 
qualities calculated to excite the enthusiastic par- 
tiality of subjects towards their rulers. She was the 
daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, and great- 
grandmother of kings ; and had, moreover, beauty 
and intellect enough to raise a peasant to a throne. 
Her indomitable courage, her ceaseless activity, and 
extraordinary skill in the conduct of affairs, enabled 
her to carry on with wonderful success a conflict 
with the powerful seigniors, and to postpone for many 
years the downfall of the monarchy. Her mental 
and personal graces attracted the attention and ad- 
miration of Pope Gregory the Great, who praises her 
for her Christian devotion, uprightness of heart, 

1 Fredeg, Chron. xlii. : "Per triduum earn diversis tormentis 
adfectam, jubet prius camelo per ornnem exercitum sedentem per- 
ducere ; posthaec coma capitis, uno pede et brachio ad vitiocissimi 
cqui caudam ligare ; ibique calcibus et velocitate cursus menibratim 
disrumpitur." Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, iii. p. 302. 

194 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IV. 

skill in government, and the careful education she 
bestowed upon her children. 1 That the unhappy 
circumstances in which her life was passed had not 

1 Greg. Mag. (Op. oro. Paris, 1705), vi. ep. 5. : " Excellentice 
vestrse prasdieandani et Deo placitam bonitatem, et gubernacula 
testantur, et educatio lilii manifestat. Cui non solum incolumem 
rerum temporaliura gloriam provida sollicitudine conservastis, 
verum etiain aeternae vitas praginia providistis, dum mentem ipsius 
in radice verce fidei, materna, ut decuit, et laudabili institutione 

Conf. vi. 50. and 59., in which latter Gregory commends Au- 
gustine, then on his way to England, to the notice of Brunhilda. 
Also ix. epist. 11. 109. 117.: "Dum turbas gentium laudabiliter 
gubernatis." And xi. 62., in which he says : " Gratias omnipo- 
tent! Deo referimus qui * * * ita vos amore Christianas Religionis 
implevit, ut quidquid ad animarum lucrum, quidquid ad propaga- 
tionem fidei pertinere cognoscitis, devota mente et pio operari 
studio non cessetis. Quanto autem favore, quantaque opitulatione 
exc^llentia vestra reverendissimum fratrem et Coepiscopum nos- 
trum Augustinum pruficiscentem ad Anglorum gentem adjuverit, 
nee ante silentio fama conticuit, et postea quidam ab eo ad nos 
Monachi redeuntes subtiliter retulerunt. Et quidem base de 
Christianitate vestra mirentur alii, quibus adhuc beneficia vestra 
minus sunt cognita ; nam nobis, quibus experimentis jam nota 
sunt, non mirandum est, sed gaudendum, &c." Conf. ix. ep. 11. 

Ibid, epist. xi. 63.: " Illud etiam cunctis patenter insinuat, 
quia et effera corda gentilium providi gubernatis arte con- 
silii, et regiam quod majoris adhuc laudis est, ornatis sapientia 

Ibid, epist. xiii. 6. : "Inter alia bona hoc apud vos prse coeteris 
tenet principatum, quod in mediis hujus mundi fluctibus, qui 
regentis animos turbulenta solent vexatione confundere, ita 
cor ad divini cultus amorem et venerabilium locorum disponen- 
dam qnietem reducitis, ac si nulla vos alia cura sollicitet. Unde 
. . . pros ali is gentibus gentem Francorum asserimus felicem, 
quce sic bonis omnibus praBditam meruit habere Reginam." Ger- 
mani Parisiorum Episc. Epist. ad Brunecliildem R. Du Chesne, 
i. p. 855. 


excluded the feeling of mercy from her heart she 
proved by ransoming at her own expense some 
Longobardian prisoners, and still more by dismiss- 
ing unhurt the wretched priest who was sent to 
betray and murder her. At a time when intrigue 
and plunder occupied the thoughts of all around her, 
she turned her attention to the erection of public 
works, wdiich have been pronounced worthy of a 
Roman edile or proconsul ; and yet thousands of her 
own countrymen rejoiced to see her torn limb from 
limb, and could not satisfy their rage until they had 
burned her lacerated body, and scattered her ashes 
to the dust ! 

o 2 

196 THE FliANKS. [Chap. Y. 




A.D. 613—741. 

And thus, after a long series of rebellions, the 
rising aristocracy gained their first great victory 
over the monarchy ; we say the monarchy, for in the 
battle which made him king of the whole Frankish 
empire no one was more truly defeated than the 
nominal victor, Clotaire II. himself. He was, in 
fact, an instrument in the hands of the seigniors for 
the humiliation of the royal power. It was not 
because Xeustria was stronger than Austrasia and 
Burgundy, that the Neustrian king obtained a triple 
crown ; but because the power of the seigniors was 
greater than that of the infant kings and their female 

The chief advantage of every victory naturally 
falls to the leaders of the victorious party ; and 
we find that on this occasion the mayors of the 
palace were the principal gainers by the change 
which had taken place. Clotaire II. soon learned that 


the support he had received was sold, not given ; 
and that, though he was the ruler of the united 
Frankish empire, his position differed from, and 
was far less commanding than, that of Clovis or 
the first Clotaire. No sooner was the kingdom of 
Burgundy transferred to him, than Werner, the 
major-domus of that country, demanded, as the price 
of his treachery, that he should be confirmed in his 
mayoralty, and that Clotaire should bind himself by 
oath never to degrade him from that office. 1 Ar- 
nulph and Pepin 2 , the leaders of the revolution in 
Austrasia, were rewarded in a similar manner, and 
exercised all the substantial power of kings under 
the humble names of mayors of the palace. It was 
fortunate for the latter country, and indeed for the 
whole empire, that at such a crisis the reins of 
government had fallen into such able hands. The 
singular concord which existed between Arnulph and 
Pepin, — who are peculiarly interesting to us as the 
progenitors of the Carlovingian race, — affords us evi- 
dence that they were actuated by patriotism as well 
as ambition. Yet they felt their power, and both 
used and endeavoured to increase it. Anxious for 
the substance rather than the external trappings of 
authority, they wisely sought a nominal head, under 
the shadow of whose name they might be less ex- 
posed to the shafts of envy. It was with this view 
that they advised Clotaire to grant the greater 

1 Frerleg. Chron. xliii. 

2 Called Pepin of Landen (Landres). 

o 3 

198 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

portion of Austrasia during his own lifetime to 
Dagobert, his son by Queen Beretrudis, with the un- 
derstanding that they should administer the kingdom 
for him. 1 

If we could feel any doubts as to the nature and 
objects of the revolution effected at this period, the 
edicts published by Clotaire would be sufficient to 
dispel them. In many respects the provisions con- 
tained in these documents resemble those of our own 
Magna Charta. 2 Their principal object is to protect 
the rich and powerful seigniors, both lay and clerical, 
from the arbitrary power of the king, and to es- 
tablish them in the full possession of all the rights 
they had usurped, during the dark and troubled 
period of which we have been speaking. It is in 
such periods that a few grow great by the depression 
of the many, and it was from the union of the few, 
for mutual protection, that those formidable aristo- 
cracies of Europe arose which often proved strong 
enough to control in turn both king and people. 

The Frankish empire, though at this time nomi- 
nally reunited under one head, was in reality 
governed by four virtually independent rulers, of 
whom Clotaire himself was not the most important. 

1 Fredeg. Chron. xlvii.: " Dagobertum .... super Austrasios 
regem instituit, retinens sibi quod Ardenna et Vosagus versus 
Neuster et Burgundiam excludebant." Erchanberti Fragm. ad an. 
622. (ap. Bouquet, ii. p. 690.), where Pepin is said to have been 
appointed Major-Domus et Pcedagogus. 

2 Baluz. Capit. Reg. Franc. (Paris, 1677. fol.), for Laws of 
Clotaire II. 


Werner, as we have seen, was made Major-Domus of 
Burgundy for life ; and as such was both adminis- 
trator of the royal fiscus and generalissimo of the 
army. Austrasia was governed by Arnulph and 
Pepin in the name of Dagobert ; and even in 
Neustria, the original portion of Clotaire, and that 
in which he had the greatest personal influence, 
there was a major-domus, on whom the weight of 
government principally rested. 

During the minority of Dagobert, Austrasia flou- 
rished under the Avise administration of his two 
guardians, who pursued the same object — the wel- 
fare of the country — with a wonderful unanimity. 
" Even the nations,' 7 says Fredegar, " on the bor- 
ders of the Avars (Huns) and the Slaves " sought the 
aid of the Austrasian mayors against their savage 
neighbours. 1 It is not wonderful, therefore, that Da- 
gobert, or rather his advisers, should wish to extend 
their rule, and to recover that portion of Austrasia 
which Clotaire had retained, when, by the advice of 
the great seigniors, he had set apart a kingdom 
for his son. Dagobert, when summoned by his 
father to Clichy 2 to marry Gomatrudis, the sister of 
Clotaire's second queen Sichildis, took the opportunity 
of claiming those provinces which had belonged to 
the Austrasian kingdom. On his father's refusal, a 

1 Fredeg.Chron. lviii. : u . , . consilio primitus beatissimi Arnulfi, 
Mettensis urbis Pontificis, et Pippini, Majoris Domus, usus, tanta 
prosperitate regale regimen in Auster regebat (Dagobertus) ut a 
cunctis gen tibus immense ordine laudem haberet." 

2 A residence near Paris. 

o 4 

200 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

violent dispute arose between them, and the manner 
in which it was decided is another proof of the extra- 
ordinaiy power to which the new aristocracy had 
attained. The question was referred to twelve of 
the Frankish seigniors, among whom was Arnulph 
himself, the Bishop of Metz. 1 The decision, as might 
have been foreseen, was in favour of Dagobert, who 
regained the Yosges and Ardennes in the Nether- 
lands ; nor did Clotaire consider it prudent to 
oppose the change. The additional strength thus 
given to the German portion of the empire was in 
some degree counterbalanced by the stricter union 
of Burgundy and Xeustria, (in both of which the 
Romance element predominated,) consequent upon 
the death of Werner. By some temporary change 
in favour of the monarchy, the exact nature of 
which it is difficult to ascertain, but which may have 
been the result of Werner's government, the Bur- 
gundian people, or rather the seigniors, consented to 
forego the right they had usurped, of choosing 
another mayor, and remained for a time more 
immediately under the government of the king. 2 

In a.d. 628, about two years after the rear- 
rangement of territory by the twelve umpires, as 
above described, Clotaire II. died, having reigned 
for nearly half a century. He left behind him 
another son, Charibert 3 , by an unknown mother; 

1 Fred. Cbron. liii. 

2 Fred. Chron. liv. : " Omnes unanimiter denegantes se nequa- 
quaro velle Majorem Domus eligere." 

3 According to the Gesta Dagoberti, c. v. (ap. Bouq. ii. p. 


but Dagobert aspired to reign alone, and summoned 
his warlike Austrasians to the field. The Burgun- 
dians, without a head, had little motive to resistance; 
nor do the Neustrians seem to have interested them- 
selves in favour of Charibert, for they quickly paid 
their homage to King Dagobert at Soissons. The 
unfortunate Charibert, however, found a friend in his 
uncle Brodulf, who endeavoured to influence the king 
in favour of his brother \ and Dagobert, having ob- 
tained all that he aimed at without resistance, was 
induced to resign a portion of his vast dominions. 
" Moved with pity," says the chronicler, " and fol- 
lowing the counsel of the wise, he gave up to Chari- 
bert the territory which lies between the boundaries 
of the Visigoths and the river Loire (or Garonne ?)." l 
Nor had Dagobert any occasion to repent his gene- 
rosity ; Charibert, after extending his boundaries 
to the south at the expense of the Gascons, died 
in a.d. 631, leaving his brother in undisputed pos- 
session of the whole empire. 

The influences to which Dagobert had hitherto been 
subjected were favourable both to virtue and good 
government. He had lived chiefly among the Ger- 
man Franks, whose habits and manners, though 
rough and even coarse, were far less corrupt than 

581.), Charibert was the son of Sichildis, Clotaire's second wife, 
in which case he could not have been more than nine years old 
when his father died (a.d. 628). But Charibert died three years 
after his father (a.d. 631), leaving one, or, as some say, three sons ! 

Fred. Chron. lvi. 

1 Fred, Chron. lvii. : " Citra Ligerem et limitem Spanise.' 

202 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

those of the Gallo-Romans of Neustria and Bur- 
gundy. He had enjoyed the society and counsel of 
the two wisest, most energetic, and honourable men 
of the day, Arnulph x and Pepin ; by whose skilful 
measures, and commanding influence in Church and 
State, he w r as firmly supported on the throne. If 
we may trust to the panegyrics of the chroniclers, 
respecting one who was " dilator supra modum lai y - 
gissimas " of the churches, the clergy, and the poor, 
Dagobert was not unworthy of the care bestowed 
upon him. He is represented as unwearied in his 
efforts for the happiness of his subjects, who were 
prosperous and grateful. Unfortunately, however, he 
was one of those whose character is at the mercy of 
immediately surrounding influences. From the wise 
and good he readily imbibed sentiments of honour 
and wisdom, but he was no less sensibly alive to the 
attractions of evil example and the allurements of 
vicious pleasure. On the death of Clotaire he re- 
moved the seat of his government to Paris, a city 
which, in a greater degree than any other, bore the 
distinguishing marks of a bastard Roman civilisation. 
The Neustrians, jealous of the Austrasians, whom 
they regarded as barbarians with mingled contempt 
and fear, exerted all their arts to captivate the affec- 
tions of the young monarch, and to eradicate his 
German nationality. 2 The first sign of their suc- 
cess was the dismissal, or rather abandonment, by 

1 Vid. Paull. Diacon. cle Gest. Langob. vi. c. 16. 

2 Fredeg, Chron. lx. Gesta Dagoberti, xxii. 

Chai\ v.] profligacy of dagobert. 203 

the king of his queen Gomatrudis, whom he left 
at Reuilly x in the neighbourhood of Paris, and 
raised her servant Nanthildis to the throne. And 
now the artificial calmness of the royal mind, which 
had but reflected the purity and wisdom of noble 
associates, was quickly ruffled by a storm of un- 
governable desires and passions. Nanthildis did 
not long maintain herself in the elevation from which 
she had thrust another. " Abandoned,' 7 says Fre- 
degar, " to immoderate luxury, like Solomon, Dago- 
bert had three wives at one time, and a very great 
number of concubines." The names of the contem- 
porary queens were Nanthildis, Wulfegandis, and 
Berchildis ; the concubines were so numerous that 
the chronicler declines to name them. The extra- 
vagant expenditure, rendered necessary by his new 
mode of life, was supplied by arbitrary exactions and 
imposts, which alienated the affections both of those 
who suffered, and those who feared to suffer. Pepin, 
a man " prudent in all things, full of good counsel 
and honour, and esteemed by all for the love of justice 
which he had instilled into the mind of Dagobert," 
saw and deplored, but could not prevent, the change. 2 
His very virtues, for which his royal pupil had once 
valued and loved him, were now regarded with 
dislike, as a tacit reproof on the immoderate self- 
indulgence of the king. Dagobert sought and found in 
iEga a minister better suited to his altered heart and 

1 Now the Faubourg St. Antoine in Paris. 

2 Fredeg. Chron. lxi. 

204 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

life ; and Pepin, who had first placed Dagobert on the 
throne, was for a time in personal danger from those 
who hated his virtues, and feared his ability and 
influence. " But the love of justice, and the fear of 
God, to whom he cleaved with steadfast heart, deli- 
vered him from all his troubles." 

It was in this adverse position of affairs, when the 
king was sunk in sensual luxury, and the people were 
murmuring at the ever increasino; burdens which his 
folly and extravagance laid upon them, that the 
Franks became involved in a war with the Slavonic 
tribes on the eastern boundaries of the empire. The 
exact limits which divided the rude nations of an- 
tiquity (whose treaties, where they existed, were 
expressed in the most vague and general terms) 
can never be defined with any great degree of cer- 
tainty. After the fall of the Thuringian kingdom, 
which had formed a barrier to their progress west- 
ward, the Slaves, formerly known by the name of 
Sarmatians, commenced a migration across the Elbe, 
and gradually spread themselves as far as the river 
Saale in Thuringia. In the beginning of the sixth 
century Bohemia was in possession of a tribe of 
Slaves called Czechs, who by the middle of the 
seventh century had occupied the country between 
the Culpa and the Mur, and extended themselves 
westward beyond the river Salza. A portion of 
these, under the name of Wends, who lived on the 
Baltic, retained their independence until a later 
period ; those who occupied central Germany, be- 
tween the Elbe and Saale, and were called Sorbs, 


were tributary to the Franks ; while the Slaves (in 
the narrower sense of the word) of Bohemia, and on 
the north-west boundary of the Frankish empire, 
groaned beneath the intolerable tyranny of the Avars 
or Huns. This latter people lived among their more 
industrious and civilised subjects like freebooters ; 
never fixing their residence in any one place, but 
roving to and fro, and compelling those among whom 
they happened to be to support them in idleness, and 
even to place their wives and daughters at their 
absolute disposal. In war the Slaves are said to have 
been placed in the van of the battle, while their 
masters abstained from fighting until they saw their 
subjects defeated. 1 Such intolerable oppression 
would have roused resistance even from the most 
timid ; the subject Slaves continually rebelled, and 
their independent kinsmen, the Baltic Wends, were 
obliged to wage incessant wars for the maintenance 
of their freedom. The efforts of the former had 
been hitherto entirely unavailing, and had had no 
other result than that of fixing the yoke more firmly 
on their necks. But the time of their deliverance 
came at last. During the reigns of Clotaire and 
Dagobert a revolution took place among the Sla- 
vonian tribes, the exact nature of which cannot be 
ascertained from the confused and meagre accounts 
of the chroniclers. All that we can gather with any 
degree of certainty is, that the Slaves and Wends 
succeeded in freeing themselves from their rapacious 

1 Fredeg. Chron. xlviii. 

206 THE FRANKS. [Chaf. V. 

and insolent lords, and in establishing an independent 
kingdom ; and that they came at this period into 
collision with the Franks on their respective borders. 
According to Fredegar, the Slavonic peoples owed 
their deliverance chiefly to a Frank of obscure origin, 
named Samo, who, when travelling (about a.d. 624) 
amonof the Slaves or Wends for the sake of commerce, 
found this people, and more especially the sons of 
the Huns by the Wendish women, in a state of open 
rebellion. Like our own glorious Clive in later 
times, he abandoned his commercial career for the 
more congenial pursuits of war and conquest ; and 
having joined the Slaves, he soon enabled them by 
his skill and valour to defeat the Avars or Huns 
in a bloody and decisive battle. So sensible were 
the liberated Slaves of what they owed to Samo, and 
so grateful for his timely and voluntary service, that 
they unanimously elected him as their king, and re- 
mained faithful in their allegiance to him for a space 
of six and thirty years. 

In a. d. 631, as Fredegar and others relate, some 
Frankish merchants were plundered and killed in the 
territory of Samo by some of his subjects. Dagobert 
immediately sent an ambassador, named Sicharius. to 
demand reparation; but Samo appears never to have 
admitted him to an audience. At last, however, Sicha- 
rius managed to get into the royal presence, by dis- 
guising himself and his attendants in the Slavonic dress, 
and he then delivered the message entrusted to him. 
Samo replied, and no doubt with truth, that injuries 
had been inflicted by both parties, and that many cases 


of the same kind must be inquired into, that mutual 
satisfaction might be given. This answer, though 
dignified and fair, was not what Sicharius expected to 
hear, and, losing the command of his temper, he began, 
" like a foolish ambassador, to utter words which were 
not contained in his instructions." Amongst other 
things he said that both Samo and his subjects owed 
allegiance and service to the Frankish monarch ; to 
which the King of the Slaves replied with calmness, 
" And the territory which we possess shall be Dago- 
bert's, and we will be his people, if he is disposed to 
be at peace with us." This soft answer did not turn 
away the wrath of the emissary, who was very pro- 
bably directed to promote the misunderstanding ; and 
he insultingly replied that it was not possible for 
Christians, the servants of God, to contract an alliance 
with dogs. "If," said Samo, with dignified sarcasm, 
u ye are the servants of God, and we his dogs, so long 
as ye act against Him we have received permission to 
tear you." l 

On the return of his ambassadors, who had suffered 
so palpable a defeat in the preliminary war of words, 
Dagobert summoned his Austrasian troops and sent 
them against the Slaves in full assurance of success. 
Ariwald, King of the Longobards, sent an auxiliary 
force from Italy to serve with the Franks, who were 
also joined by the Alemannian or Swabian contingent, 
and were at first successful. But when the Aus- 
trasians were led up to attack a strong place called 

1 Fredeg. Chron. lxviii. 

208 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

Wogatisburc 1 , where a large army of Wends had been 
drawn together, they were miserably defeated and put 
to flight. This unexpected issue of the contest, is 
attributed by the chroniclers to the ill-will of the Aus- 
trasians, who went into the fight without any hearty 
zeal, on account of their dislike of Dagobert, and 
their jealousy of the Neustrians, with whom the 
king had so much identified himself. That the vic- 
tory, however gained, was real and substantial, is 
evident from the fact that Derwan, Prince of the 
Sorbs, who had been in some degree subject to the 
Franks, transferred his homage to Kins; Samo. 

In the following year, a. d. 632, Dagobert again 
led an army from Metz to Mayence on the Rhine, with 
the intention of attacking the Wendish Slaves, but 
this expedition was abandoned without any apparent 
cause ; unless we can believe that Dagobert, at the 
head of a formidable army, retired from the country 
without striking a blow, because ambassadors from 
the Saxons came to offer their assistance on condition 
of being excused from paying their yearly tribute of 
five hundred cows ! 2 

The true reason of these repeated failures is to be 
sought in the disaffection of the Austrasian seigniors, 
who were not inclined to shed their blood in company 
with Neustrians, for one whom they now regarded 
exclusively in the light of a Neustrian King. The 
change from the dignified and advantageous position 

1 Which most writers have sought among the Alps, while 
others consider it to be Voitsberg in Steiermark. 

2 Fred. Cliron. lxxiv. 


which they had occupied under the able administra- 
tion of the chiefs of their own order, Pepin and Ar- 
nulph, to that of distant and little regarded subjects 
of a monarch who spent his life at Paris, was more 
than their proud and ambitious spirits could endure. 
They obeyed the royal ban unwillingly, when sum- 
moned to the field ; they defended even their own 
territory in Thuringia with sullen feebleness ; and the 
Slaves made continual accessions to their territory at 
the expense of the Frankish empire. The eyes of 
Dagobert or his advisers were at last forced open to 
the real condition of affairs, and to the danger which 
threatened them from the east. They saw that the 
Austrasian seigniors were determined to be ruled by 
their own order, though they still preferred to do so 
in the name of a Merovingian king. To disregard 
their wishes was to risk, not only the loss of Thu- 
ringia, but the dismemberment of the empire. In 
a.d. 632 therefore, just after the lesson he had re- 
ceived in the abortive expedition above described, 
Dagobert summoned the grandees of his empire both 
temporal and spiritual to Metz ; and there, with the 
general consent of his council, appointed the infant 
Sigebert III. — his son by Ragnetruda — King of 
Austrasia. By this act, the nryal authority was once 
more transferred to the hands of the seigniors, and 
the Merovingian dynasty tottered to its fall. 

The natural and proper arrangement would have 
been to make Pepin the guardian of the infant king 
and administrator of the kingdom ; but the jealousy 


210 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

of the Parisian court was too strong to allow of this 
concession. While therefore Cunibert, Bishop of 
Cologne, was sent with Sigebert into Austrasia, Pepin 
was detained at the court of Dagobert, as a sort of 
hostage. From this time the Austrasians appear to 
have defended their borders against the Wends with 
energy and success. 1 

This arrangement was unwillingly made by the 
Neustrian court, under a sense of the necessity of 
conciliating the German subjects of the empire. It 
had become evident that, of the Prankish kingdoms, 
Austrasia was by far the strongest ; while the Neus- 
trians therefore yielded on this occasion from ne- 
cessity and fear, they were anxious to provide a coun- 
terpoise to the Germanism of Austrasia, by more 
closely and permanently uniting the countries in 
which Gallo-Romanism was predominant. The birth 
of Clovis (the second son of Dagobert by Nan- 
thildis) appeared to afford the means of carrying out 
their views ; in which Dagobert himself, from his pre- 
dilection for Neustrian luxury and refinement, was 
inclined to sympathise. " By the counsel and advice 
of the Neustrian s," as the chronicler expressly re- 
lates, and the consent of the Austrasians (who had 
so lately carried their own point), Clovis II. was de- 
clared heir of the united kingdoms of Neustria and 
Burgundy, while Sigebert III. was confirmed, in the 
possession of all that the former Kings of Austrasia 
had held, with one small exception. " This arrange- 

Fred. Chron. lxxv. 


merit," we are told, " the Austrasians were com- 
pelled by their fear of Dagobert to sanction, whether 
they would or no." Nevertheless, it was strictly 
observed on the death of Dagobert, which took 
place in a. d. 638. * 

The Mayors of the Palace. 

We may almost consider Dagobert as the last of the 
Merovingian monarchs, since he is the last who really 
exercised anything like independent royal authority. 
The name of king, indeed, was retained by his long- 
haired descendants for several generations, but the 
bearers of it were either children in years, or so 
weak in intellect from early debauchery and a neg- 
lected education, as to be the mere tools and puppets 
of their own servants. These shadowy forms, which 
excite in our minds both pity and contempt, are 
known in history as the Rois faineans, a title which 
well expresses their inactivity and insignificance, and 
the merely nominal nature of their rule. While the 
storms of action rage around them, they are hidden 
from our gaze in the recesses of a court, half nursery, 
half harem. 

The iron sceptre of the first Clovis, which his de- 
generate successors had dropped from their listless 
hands to raise the wine-cup or caress the harlot, was 

1 Fredeg. Chron, lxxvi. and lxxix. 

p 2 

212 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

seized with a vigorous grasp by men who exercised the 
loftiest functions under an almost menial name. At 
this period the real direction of affairs was left 
to the Majores-Domus, or Mayors of the Palace, 
whose power is seen continually to increase, till, in 
the hands of the Carlovingians, it becomes imperial; 
while that of the Salian monarchs, already greatly 
"weakened, declines from year to year, till they become 
the mere puppets of an annual show. 

We shall therefore take this opportunity of giving 
a short account of the origin and nature of the office of 
Major-Domus — the parasitical growth which sapped 
the strength of the Merovingian throne. And in 
the subsequent portion of this preliminary history 
we shall transfer our chief attention from the no- 
minal to the actual rulers, and endeavour to relate, 
with all possible conciseness, the civil and military 
transactions of the mayors; and more particularly of 
those among them who, great in themselves, enjoy 
additional fame as progenitors of Charlemagne. 

That the successful Imperator of an army should 
grow into an Emperor, or ruler of the nation, — that a 
Ccesar should become a Kaisar, — seems natural enough: 
but the humble and peaceful office originally de- 
signated by the words Major-Domus seems capable of 
no such development. The ideas connected with it 
are little suited to the proud and powerful Frankish 
warriors, who, under that simple title, performed the 
highest functions of government, achieved great con- 
quests at the head of powerful armies, dethroned an 
ancient dynasty of kings, and in their posterity gave 



successors to the Emperors of the West. This dis- 
crepancy between the name and the thing it denotes 
has excited general remark, and given rise to many 
learned and ingenious theories. 1 

In a former part of this work we have endeavoured 
to trace the gradual progress of the royal power 
among the Franks, and the simultaneous decline of 
those popular institutions by which liberty is sus- 
tained ; and which, at an earlier period, existed among 
the Franks in common with other German peoples. 
It is important to keep this development in view 
during the present inquiry, because, as we shall see, 
the power of the mayors first rose icith that of the 
kings, and then upon it. 

The domestic condition of the Franks was greatly 
changed by their conquests in Gaul during the sixth 
century. As the result of a few fortunate battles, 
they found themselves in possession of well-stocked 
houses and fertile lands ; and though they were too 
warlike themselves to settle down as cultivators of 
the soil, they contrived, by means of others, to derive 
considerable wealth from their estates. The same 
conquests which brought rich booty to all the Franks, 
secured, as we have seen, to the kings an enormous 
increase both of wealth and power. They still, indeed, 
in times of peace, continued to lead the life of great 
landed proprietors, passing in their rude carriages 

1 Sismondi derives Major-Domus from the words Mord-Dom, 
Judge of Murderers. 

v 3 

214 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

drawn by oxen from one of their estates to another, 
and consuming in tarn the fruits of each ; but the 
sudden and enormous addition to their means na- 
turally led to an increase in the number of their 
dependents and a greater degree of external splendour 
in their mode of life. Even in their simplest state, 
as described by Tacitus, they must, like other wealthy 
men, have had not only numerous menials and slaves, 
domestic and agricultural, but overseers of the various 
departments of their household to provide them with 
all things necessary for their dignity, convenience, 
and pleasure. At the head of these, occupying the 
exact position of a house-steward in a nobleman's 
family, was the major-domus, whose purely domestic 
character is proved by the fact that he is ranked 
after the (founts and the Domestici. The nature of 
the count's office will be explained elsewhere; and 
the domestici, according to Loebell, were the more dis- 
tinguished of the Comitatus, who fought about the 
person of the king. Besides the major-domiis x , we 
find mentioned as members of the royal household, 
the Eeferendarius (Chancellor), the Comes Pcdatii 
(Judge at the Royal Tribunal), Cubicidarius and 
Camerarii (Chamberlain and Overseers of the Trea- 
sury), and the Comes Stabidi (Master of the Horse). 
These officials, some of whom appear to have been 
appointed in imitation of the practice of the Byzan- 
tine court, were originally mere personal attendants 

1 Loebell's Gregor von Tours, p. 183. Greg. Turon. ix. 36.. 
"Cui Comitibus, Domesticis, Majoribus atque nutritiis et omni- 
bus qui ad exercemlutn servlfiinn regale erant necessarii . . ." 


on the king, who could dismiss them at pleasure. 
He was not even bound to select them from the 
free men, but could raise at will a freedman or a 
slave. It is an important consideration in this place 
that there was no class of hereditary nobility to limit 
the royal choice of servants. All history teaches us 
that the most sudden changes of fortune take place, 
not under a republic, or constitutional monarchy, but 
under arbitrary rulers, where the royal favour is the 
only recognised distinction — where a single word can 
shorten the long and toilsome path by which, under 
freer governments, merit seeks its appropriate re- 

The fact that the majors of the jDalace are men- 
tioned only three times by Gregory of Tours is a 
proof that in his age they had not acquired political 
importance. 1 Yet when w r e come to inquire more 
particularly into their position and functions, we 
shall find in their lowly office a germ of power, 
which favourable circumstances might easily foster 
into luxuriant growth. As stewards of the king's 
estates, and overseers of his personal attendants and 
servants, the dignity of their office would be in 
proportion to the extent of the former and the 
number of the latter. The conquest of Gaul, which 
did so much for royalty, must have raised the major- 
domus from a rich man's house-steward to a kind of 
chancellor of the exchequer ; whose actual power 
was considerable, and whose indirect influence, as 

1 Badegisil, Waddo, and Florentianus. Greg. Tur. vi. 9. 45., 
ix. 30. 

p i 

216 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

the immediate agent in the distribution of royal 
favours, was only limited by his ability to take 
advantage of his position. It was through him that 
money, lands, and offices were distributed among 
the numerous warriors, who in those unsettled times 
assembled round a rich and warlike king. To the 
provincials, more particularly, who had been accus- 
tomed to the low intrigues of a Roman court, and 
had learned to seek the favour of those who in any 
relation stood near the throne, the major-domus 
would appear a man of great importance. His 
means of influence would be further increased by 
the selfish liberality of those who sought his aid, or 
received advantages through his hands. 

And thus, as the royal power increased, the posi- 
tion of the mayors continued to improve. As the 
popular assemblies on the Campus Martius declined 
in importance, no small share of the power they had 
once possessed was transferred to the attendants of 
the king. Energetic rulers needed not, and greatly 
disliked, the free discussions of the assembled people; 
and weak and bad ones naturally feared them. 
Yet all men shrink from the sole responsibility of 
important decisions ; even a Xerxes summons his 
noble slaves and asks their counsel, though he lets 
them know that he is free to act against it. And 
the Frankish king was glad at times to consult the 
more dignified of his servants, his greatest captains, 
and his most holy and learned priests. From such 
elements a royal council was gradually formed, 
which soon obtained a kind of prescriptive right 


to be heard on great occasions, and played an im- 
portant part in Frankish history. In this assembly 
the major-domus, as being nearest to the king's per- 
son, and always on the spot, naturally took a leading 
part, when his character and abilities enabled him to 
do so. The importance of this royal council may be 
better estimated when we consider of whom it was 
composed. There were, in the first place, the 
Courtiers, i. e., the holders of offices about the king, 
of whom the major-domus was the first. Secondly, 
the Antrustiones, whose character and j^sition we 
have elsewhere defined. Thirdly, «6S3r number 
of dependent rulers, as the hereditarr^Uiikes of Ba- 
varia and Alemannia, who were allowed to retain 
their power under the protection of the Frankish 
monarchs. Fourthly, the Patricii of Burgundy, Mas- 
silia, and Ripuaria. Fifthly, the Dukes, Counts, Thun- 
gini, &c. ; of whom the last-mentioned were appointed 
by the king as governors of provinces and gaus. 1 
And, in the last place, the great dignitaries of the 
Church ; who, in proportion as they became more 
and more secularised by their wealth, went more 
frequently to court, and made themselves welcome 
and influential there, by their superior learning, 
splendour, and refinement. 

In this great assembly of dependent governors, 
antrustiones, and bishops, which soon became a 
regularly constituted council, the major-domus pre- 
sided as the representative, though a humble one, 

1 Vicl. Pertz, Friinkische Ilausmeier. 

218 THE FRANKS. [Cdap. V. 

of the king. x As such, a portion of the executive 
power fell at all times into his hands ; and during a 
minority of the crown his influence was in exact 
proportion to his tact in making use of his favourable 
position, and his ability to maintain his ground amid 
the intrigues and struggles of opposing factions. 

We need not be surprised to find that, to the civil 
duties of the major-domus, was added the command 
of the royal retinue. In the times of which we 
speak there were no civilians except ecclesiastics 
(and even these, as we know, were not entirely 
destitute of that military spirit which was a necessity 
and a characteristic of the age) 2 ; and the mayors 
of the palace would have had but little chance of 
improving or even maintaining their position, of 
satisfying their royal master, or controlling his 
household, had they not been both able and willing 
to play a prominent part upon the battle-field. 

The military duties of the mayoralty naturally 
became more arduous and important when the mon- 
arch s themselves were deficient in warlike qualities ; 
and hence the office was generally bestowed upon 
some distinguished warrior. This was the case even 
while the mayors continued to be the nominees and 
servants of the king; for it was to their major-domus, 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 13, 14. 23., viii. 21. 

2 The servants of the crown in this age seem to have held 
themselves ready for any kind of service and promotion. Bade- 
gisil, Regicc Domus Major, was suddenly made a bishop. Greg. 
Tur. vi. 9. Another major-domus was employed in making a 
census. Greg. Tur. ix. 30. 


and the more immediate dependents of the crown 
whom he commanded, that the monarch looked for 
support in his contests with the rising aristocracy. 
While the monarchy was strong, we find the mayors 
the steady upholders of the royal power. But in the 
anarchic period which followed the death of Sige- 
bert L, the office of mayor, like every other honour- j 
able post, became the subject of a scramble, and fell 
into the hands of those great proprietors, whose 
encroachments on the royal prerogative it was de- I 
signed to repel. The importance of the position oc- 
cupied by the mayor, and the great advantages he was 
able to bring to whatever side he espoused, were too 
evident to be overlooked by the enemies of the 
monarchy; and accordingly we find that one of 
the first uses made by the Austrasian seigniors of 
their victory over Brunhilda, was to make the 
mayoralty elective, and independent of the crown. 
This important change took place in both the great 
divisions of the Frankish empire, but many circum- 
stances tended to render the development of the 
power of the mayors far more rapid and complete 
in Austrasia than in Neustria. In the latter, king- 
dom the resistance which the seigniors could offer 
to the crown, was weaker, both because they were 
themselves in a less degree homogeneous than in 
the German portion of the empire, and because 
they could not reckon upon the sympathy and aid 
of the Romano-Gallic population. In Austrasia the 
case was different. Even there indeed, though the 
nation was mainly German, the tendencies of the 

220 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

court were decidedly Romance ; and not unnaturally 
so, for among the Roman provincials was found 
the external civilisation — the grace of manner, the 
decorative arts of life, the skill in the refined in- 
dulgence of the passions, which throw a brilliant 
light around a throne, and are calculated to engage 
the affections of its occupants. But the Romanising 
leanings of the court were not shared in by the 
Austrasian seigniors, or the people at large ; and 
the struggle between the monarchy and the nascent 
aristocracy in Austrasia was embittered by national 
antipathies. We have already seen the issue of 
the contest in favour of the seigniors, and their 
victory must be regarded as another triumph of 
the Germans over the Gallo-Romans. The mayors 
of the palace, whose consequence had been greatly 
increased during frequent and long minorities, under- 
stood the crisis ; and, placing themselves at the head 
of the great landed proprietors of Austrasia, suc- 
ceeded in depriving the Merovingian kings of the 
realities of power, while they left them its external 

Yet, favourable as had hitherto been the circum- 
stances of the times to the rising power of the mayors, 
it needed another remarkable coincidence to raise 
them to royal and imperial thrones. Notwith- 
standing the influence they had acquired at the 
end of the sixth century, and the powerful support 
they received from the great proprietors, banded toge- 
ther in resistance to the crown, the struggle was a 

' CO 

long and doubtful one ; though the champion of mon- 


archy was a woman. Fear is the mother of cruelty ; 
and bloody as were the dreadful times in which 
Brunhilda lived, her enemies would never have taken 
such a fiendish delight in her sufferings, had not 
their hatred been rendered more intense by previous 
doubts and fears — had they not been rendered de- 
lirious with the joy of an unlooked-for success. Had 
the Merovingian stock continued to produce a suc- 
cession of able men — had it even sent forth one in 
whom the fire of Clovis burned — the steady though 
slumbering loyalty of the people might have been 
roused, the factious seigniors destroyed in detail, and 
the career of the king-making mayors brought to a 
bloody termination at another Barnet. 

The actual state of things was, as we have seen, 
the very reverse of all this. Instead of a vigorous 
young warrior like our own Edward IV., the Frankish 
nobles had boys and women to contend with. For a 
long period the sceptre was in the hands of a suc- 
cession of minors, who met with the foulest play 
from those who should have been their guardians. 
Precocious by nature, and exposed to the allurements 
of every enfeebling indulgence and hurtful vice, they 
gladly yielded up the all too heavy sceptre to the 
rude hands of their warlike keepers, and received in 
exchange the cap and bells of the jester and the fool. 

And while the Merovingian race in its decline is 
notorious in history as having produced an unex- 
ampled number of imbecile monarchs, the family 
which was destined to supplant them was no less 
wonderfully prolific in warriors and statesmen of the 

222 THE FKANKS. [Chap* V. 

highest class, It is not often that great endowments 
are transmitted even from father to son, but the line 
from which Charlemagne sprang presents to our 
admiring gaze an almost uninterrupted succession 
of five remarkable men, within little more than a 
single century. Of these the first three held the 
mayoralty of Austrasia ; and it was they who pre- 
vented the permanent establishment of absolute power 
on the Roman model, and secured to the German 
population of Austrasia an abiding victory over that 
amalgam of degraded Romans and corrupted Gauls, 
which threatened to leaven the European world. To 
them, under Providence, we owe it that the centre 
of Europe is at this day German, and not Gallo- 

From this brief sketch of the origin and progress 
of the mayors of the palace, who play so important a 
part in the succeeding age, we return to the point in 
the general history from which the digression was 

On the death of Dagobert, a.d. 638, his son, 
Clovis II., a child of six j^ears old, succeeded him. 
During his minority the government of Neustria and 
Burgundy was carried on by his mother Nanthildis, 
and the Major-Domus iEga, while Pepin and others 
shared the supreme power in Austrasia. Pepin died 
a.d. 639 or 640 \ and a long and ferocious contest 
ensued for the vacant mayoralty, which was finally 
taken possession of by Pepin's own son Grimoald. 

1 "Nee parvum dolorem ejusdem transitus cunctis generavit in 
Auster." — Fred. Chron. lxxxv. 


So low had the power of the nominal monarchs al- 
ready sunk, that, on the death of Sigebert III., in A. d. 
656, Grimoald ventured to shear the locks of the 
rightful heir, Dagobert II., and, giving out that he 
was dead, sent him to Ireland ; he then proposed his 
own son for the vacant throne, under the pretence that 
Sigebert had adopted him. 1 But the time was not 
yet ripe for so daring an usurpation, nor does Grimoald 
appear to have been the man to take the lead in a 
revolution. Both the attempt itself, and its mise- 
rable issue, go to prove that the son of Pepin did not 
inherit the wisdom and energy of the illustrious 
stock to which he belonged. The King of Burgundy 
and Neu stria, pretending to acquiesce in the accession 
of Grimoald's son, summoned the father to Paris, and 
caused him to be seized during his journey by some 
Franks — who are represented as being highly in- 
dignant at his presumption — and put to death. 2 

The whole Frankish empire was thus once more 
united, at least in name, under Clovis II. (who also 
died in A. d. 656), and under his son and successor, 
Clotaire III., whose mother, Balthildis,an Anglo-Saxon 
by birth, administered the kingdom with great ability 
and success. But the interests and feelings of the 
German provinces were too distinct from those of 
Burgundy and Neustria to allow of their long 
remaining even nominally under one head. The 

1 Sigeberti Vita, cap. v. s. 15. (ap. Bouquet, ii. p. 602.). 

2 GestaRegum Francoruru, xliii. (Bouq. ii. p. 568.). "In Scotiam 
majorem Hibernianive, Scottorum insularu . , . ."— Had. ValesiiEp. 
(Bouq. ii. p. 727.). 

224 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

Austrasians were eager to have a king of their own, 
and accordingly another son of Clovis was raised to 
the throne of Austrasia under the title of Childe- 
ric II., with Wulfoald as his major-domus. 

At the death of Clotaire III. in Neustria (in a. d. 
670), the whole empire was thrown into confusion by 
the ambitious projects of Ebroin, his major-domus, 
who sought to place Theoderic III., Clotaire's youngest 
brother, who was still a mere child, on the throne, that 
he might continue to reign in his name. Ebroin ap- 
pears to have proceeded towards his object with too 
little regard for the opinions and feelings of the other 
seigniors, who rose against him and his puppet 
king, and drove them from the seat of power. The 
successful conspirators then offered the crown of 
Neustria to Childeric II., King of Austrasia, who 
immediately proceeded to take possession, while 
Ebroin sought refuge in a monastery. l Childeric 
ascended the Neustrian throne without opposition; 
but his attempts to control the seigniors, one of 
whom, named Badilo, he is said to have scourged, 
gave rise to a formidable conspiracy ; and he was 
soon afterwards assassinated, together with his 
queen and son at Chelles. Wulfoald escaped with 
difficulty, and returned to Austrasia. Another son 
of Childeric, Childebert III., was then raised upon 
the shield by the seigniors, while the royal party 
brought forward Theoderic III. from the monas- 

1 Fredeg. Chron. Contin. xciv., xcv. (ap. Bouquet, ii. p. 450.). 
Gesta Reg. Franc, xlv. Vita S. Leodegarii, c. iv. (^ap. Bou* 
quet, ii. p. 629.). 


tery to which he had retired, and succeeded in making 
good his claim. The turbulent and unscrupulous 
but able Ebroin ventured once more to leave his 
place of refuge, and by a long series of the most 
treacherous murders, and by setting up a pretender 

— as Clovis, a son of Clotaire III he succeeded 

(in a. d. 673 or 674) in forcing himself upon Theo- 
deric as Major-Domus of Neustria. 1 

In the meantime Dagobert II., whom Grimoald 
had sent as a child to Ireland, and who had sub- 
sequently found a faithful friend in the well-known 
St. Wilfrid, Bishop of York, was recalled and placed 
on the Austrasian throne. But the restored prince 
soon (in a. d. 678) fell a victim to the intrigues of 
Ebroin, and theNeustrian faction among the seigniors, 
who aimed at bringing the whole empire under their 
own arbitrary power. 2 Nor does it seem at all im- 
probable that the ability and audacity of Ebroin 
might have enabled them to carry out their designs, 
had not Australia possessed a leader fully equal to 
the emergency. Pepin, surnamed of Heristal from a 
castle belonging to his family in the neighbourhood 
of Liege, was the son of Ansegisus by Begga, the 
illustrious daughter of Pepin of Landen. This great 
man, who proved himself worthy of his grandsire and 

1 Fred. Chron. Cc-nt. xcvi. Vita S. Leodegarii, c. viii. : " Ut Leo 
rugiens .... resonuit rugitus ejus per terras Francorum." 

2 Had. Yalesii Ep. de Dagoberto (ap. Bouquet, ii. p. 727.). 
Vita S. Wilfrid, per Edd. Stepban. c. xxvii. (in Act. S. S. Ord. 
S. Bened. s. iv. pt. i. p. 670. Paris, 1677). Gesla Reg. Franc, 


226 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

his mother, was at this time associated with Duke 
Martin in the government of Austrasia, which up 
to a. d. 630 had been administered by Wulfoald. 1 
Martin and Pepin summoned their followers to arms 
to meet the expected attack of the Neustrians. In 
the first instance, however, the Austrasians were sur- 
prised by the activity of Ebroin, who fell upon them 
before they had completed their preparations, and 
totally defeated them in the neighbourhood of Luco- 
faus. 2 Martin fled to the town of Laon ; and the 
artifices by which his enemies lured him from this 
retreat to his destruction are worthy of notice, as 
giving us a remarkable picture of the manners of the 
period in general, and of the sad state of the Church in 
particular. Ebroin, hearing that his intended victim 
had reached a place of safety, despatched Agilbert, 
Bishop of Paris, and Probus, Bishop of Rheims, to 
persuade Martin to repair to the Neustrian camp. 
In order to dispel the apprehensions with which he 
listened to them, these holy men went through the 
not unusual ceremony of swearing upon a receptacle 
containing sacred relics, that he should suffer no 
injury by following their advice. The bishops, how- 
ever, to save themselves from the guilt of perjury, 
had taken care that the vessels, which were covered, 

1 Begga is spoken of in the highest terms by the annalists : 
"Soror ejus Beggha nupta Ansigiso, S. Arnulphi Metensis Epis- 
copi filio, regia? dignitatis decus, quocfpenitus deperierat per'Regum 
Francoruni inauditam desidiam per suam reparavit prosapiam." 
Vita S. Sigeberti, c. 10. (ap. Bouquet, ii. p. 600.). 

2 Gesta Reg. Franc, xlvi. Lufao or Lifou (Loixi near Laon?). 
Conf. Fred. Chron. Cont. xcvii. 


should be left empty. 1 Martin, whom they omitted 
to inform of this important fact, was satisfied with 
their oaths, and accompanied them to Ecri, where 
he and his followers were immediately assassinated, 
without, as was thought, any detriment to the faith of 
the envoys ! Pepin, however, was neither to be ca- 
joled nor frightened into submission, and soon found 
himself at the head of a powerful force, consisting 
in part of Neustrian exiles, whom the tyranny of 
Ebroin had ruined or offended. A collision seemed 
inevitable, when the position of affairs was suddenly 
changed by the death of Ebroin, who was assassinated 
in a. d. 681 by Hermenfried, a distinguished Neus- 
trian Frank. Waratto followed him in the mayoralty 
of Neustria, and seemed inclined to live on friendly 
terms with Pepin ; but Gislemar, his son, who headed 
the party most hostile to Pepin, succeeded in getting 
possession of the government for a time, and renewed 
the war against the Austrasians. Gislemar's death 
(in a. d. 684), which the annalists attribute to the 
Divine anger 2 , restored Waratto to his former power; 
and hostilities ceased for a time. When Waratto 
also died, about two years after his undutiful son, 
he was succeeded by Berchar, his son-in-law, whom 
the annalist pithily describes as " statura parvus, in- 
tellectu modicus." 

The insolent disregard which this man showed to 

1 Fredeg, Chron. Cont. xcvii. : " Super vacuas capsas." Chron. 
Moissiac. an. 680 (ap. Mon. Germ. ed. Pertz, i. p. 288.). Adonis 
Chron. an. 680 (Bouq. ii. p. 670.). 

2 " A Deo percussus." — Fredeg. Chron. Cont. xcviii. 

Q 2 

228 THE FRANKS. [Chai\ V. 

the feelings and wishes of the most powerful Neus- 
trians, induced many of them to make common cause 
with Pepin, to whom they are said to have bound 
themselves by hostages. In a.d. 687 Pepin was 
strong enough to assume the offensive ; and, jnelding 
to the entreaties of the Neustrian refugees, he sent an 
embassy to Theoderic III. to demand the restoration 
of the exiles to their confiscated lands. 1 The Kin<x 
of Neustria, prompted by Berchar, his major-domus, 
haughtily replied that he would come himself and 
fetch his runaway slaves. Pepin then prepared for 
war, with the unanimous consent of the Austrasian 
seigniors, whose wishes he scrupulously consulted. 
Marching through the Silva Carbonaria (in Belgium), 
he entered the Neustrian territory, and took post at 
Testri on the river Somme. 2 Theoderic and Berchar 
also collected a large army and marched to meet the 
invaders. The two armies encamped in sight of each 
other near the village of Testri, on opposite sides of 
the little river Daumignon, the Neustrians on the 
southern and the Austrasians on the northern bank. 
Whether from policy or a higher motive, Pepin dis- 
played great unwillingness, even then, to bring the 
matter to extremities ; and, sending emissaries into 
the camp of Theoderic, he once more endeavoured to 
negotiate ; demanding, amongst other things, that the 
property of which the churches had been " despoiled 
by wicked tyrants " should be restored to them. He 
promised that, if his conditions of peace were accepted 

1 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. xcix. Vita Pippini Ducis, an. 687. 
(Bouq. ii. p. 608.). Gesta Keg. Franc xlviii. 
- Near St. Quentin. 

Chap. V.] BATTLE OF TESTRI. 229 

and the effusion of kindred blood prevented, he would 
give the king a large amount of silver and gold. 
The wise and humane reluctance of Pepin was na- 
turally construed by Theoderic and his u little- 
minded " mayor into fear, and distrust of his army, 
which was inferior to their own in numbers : a haughty 
answer was returned, and all negotiations broken off. 
Both sides then prepared for the morrow's battle. 
Pepin, having passed the night in forming his plans, 
crossed the river before daybreak and drew up his 
army to the east of Theoderic's position, that the 
rising sun might blind the enemy. The spies of 
Theoderic reported that the Austrasian camp was 
deserted, on which the Neustrians were led out to 
pursue the flying foe. 1 The mistake of the scouts 
was soon made clear by the vigorous onset of Pepin ; 
and after a fierce but brief combat the Neustrians 
were totally defeated, and Theoderic and Berchar 
tied from the field. 2 The latter was slain by his 
own followers : the king was taken prisoner, but his 
life was mercifully spared. 

The battle of Testri is notable in Frankish history 
as that in which the death-stroke was given to the 

1 Annal. Mett. (Mon. Germ. i. p. 316.), an. 687—690. Fred. 
Chron. Cont. c. 

2 Pepin was even more remarkable for personal courage than 
for his generalship. Paullus Diaconus, vi. 37. : " Fuit autem vir 
mirse audacise, qui hostes suos aggrediendo statim conterebat." He 
relates that on one occasion he rushed on the camp of his enemies 
with only one follower, and cut their general and his attendants to 
pieces in his tent. 

Q 3 

230 THE FRANKS. [Chai\ V. 

Merovingian dynasty, by an ancestor of a far more 
glorious race of monarchs. " From this time for- 
ward," says the chronicler Erchambertus, " the kings 
began to have only the royal name, and not the 
royal dignity." A very striking picture of the Rois 
Fain^ans has been handed down to us by Ein- 
hard, the friend and secretary of Charlemagne, 
in his famous life of his royal master. " The race 
of the Merovingians," he says, " from which the 
Franks were formerly accustomed to choose their 
kings, is generally considered to have ended with 
Chilperic ; who, at the command of the Roman Pon- 
tiff Stephen, was deposed, shorn of his locks, and 
sent into a monastery. But although the stock died 
out with him, it had long been entirely without 
life and vigour, and had no distinction beyond the 
empty title of king ; for the authority and govern- 
ment were in the hands of the highest officers of the 
palace, who were called majores-domus, and had the 
entire administration of affairs. Nothing was left 
to the king, except that, contenting himself with the 
mere royal name, he was allowed to sit on the throne 
with long hair and unshorn beard, to play the part 
of a ruler, to hear the ambassadors from whatever 
part they might come, and at their departure to 
communicate to them the answers which he had 
been taught or even commanded to make, as if by 
his own authority. Besides the worthless title of 
king, and a scanty maintenance, which the major- 
domus meted out according to his pleasure, the king 
possessed only one farm, and that by no means a 


lucrative one, on which he had a dwelling-house and 
a few servants, just sufficient to supply his most 
urgent necessities. Wherever he had to go, he tra- 
velled in a carriage drawn by a yoke of oxen and 
driven by a cowherd in rustic fashion. It was 
thus that he went to the palace, to the public as- 
sembly of the people, which met every year for the 
good of the kingdom ; after which he returned 
home. But the whole administration of the state, 
and everything which had to be regulated or exe- 
cuted, either at home or abroad, was carried on by 
the mayors." l 

The whole power of the three kingdoms was thus 
suddenly thrown into the hands of Pepin, who 
showed in his subsequent career that he was equal 
to the far more difficult task of keeping, by his 
wisdom and moderation, what he had gained by the 
vigour of his intellect and his undaunted valour. 
He, too, was happily free from the little vanity which 
takes more delight in the pomp than in the realities 
of power, and, provided he possessed the substantial 
authority, was contented to leave the royal name to 
others. 2 He must have felt himself strong enough 
to do what his uncle Grimoald had vainly attempted, 
and his grandson happily accomplished ; but he saw 
that by grasping at the shadow he might lose the 
substance. He was surrounded by proud and sus- 

1 Einkard. Vit. Carol, c. 1. 

2 Vita Pippini Ducts (Bouq. ii. p. 603.): " Dux et major- 
domus ' ■ • qua dignitate modice differente sublimitate regia 


232 THE FRANKS. [Chai>. V. 

picious seigniors, whose jealousy would have been 
more excited by his taking the title, than by his 
exercising the powers of a king ; and, strange though 
it may seem, the reverence for the ancient race, and 
the notion of their exclusive and inalienable rights, 
were far from being extinguished in the breasts of 
the common people. 1 By keeping Theoderic upon 
the throne and ruling in his name, he united both 
reason and prejudice in support of his government. 
Yet some approach was made — though probably not 
by his own desire — towards acknowledged sovereignty 
in the case of Pepin. He was called Dux et Princeps 
Francorum, and the years of his office were reckoned, 
as well as those of the king, in all public documents. 
Having fixed the seat of his government in 
Austrasia, as the more German and warlike portion 
of his dominions, he named dependents of his own, 
and subsequently his two sons, Drogo and Grimoald, 
to rule as mayors in the two other divisions of the 
empire. He gave the greatest proof of his power and 
joopularity by restoring the assemblies of the Campus 
Martius, a purely German institution, which under 
the Romanising Merovingian monarchs had gradually 
declined. At these annual meetings, which were held 
on the 1st of March, the whole nation assembled for 
the purpose of discussing measures for the ensuing 
year. None but a ruler who was conscious of his 
own strength, and of an honest desire for the welfare 

1 Vita Pipp. Due. (ibid.) : " Erat erga Eegem fidei servan- 
tissimus * * Nee munera Populi ad subvertendum jus regiuru 


of his people, would have voluntarily submitted him- 
self and his actions to the chances of such an ordeal. 1 
As soon as he had firmly fixed himself in his seat, 
and secured the submission of the envious seigniors, 
and the love of the people, who looked to him as 
the only man who could save them from the evils of 
anarchy, he turned his attention to the re-establish- 
ment of the Frankish empire in its full extent. The 
neighbouring tribes, which had with difficulty, and 
for the most part imperfectly, been subdued by 
Clovis and his successors, were ready to seize upon 
everv favourable occasion of ridding themselves of 
the hated yoke. 2 Nor were the poor imbecile boys 

1 Annal. Mett. an. 692 (Mon. Germ. i. p. 320.) : " Singulis vero 
annisin Kalendis Martii generate cum omnibus Francis, secundum 
priscorum consuetudinem, Concilium agebat; in quo ob regii nomi- 
nis reverentiam eum quern sibi ipse propter huniilitatis et mansue- 
tudinis magnitudinem prasfecerat prassidere jubebat; donee ab omni- 
bus Optimatibus Francorum donariis acceptis,verboque pro pace etde- 
fensione ecclesiarum Dei et pupillorum et viduarum facto, raptuque 
foeminarum et incendio solide decreto interdicto, exercitui quoque 
pragcepto dato ut quacumque die illis denunciaretur, parati essentin 
partem quam ipse disponeret proficisci." Conf.Vit. Car. Einhard. s. i. 

2 Aimed. Mettens. an. 687 . : " Hac etenim gentes olim, et aliae plu- 
rimsemultis sudoribus adquisitaa Francorum summo obtemperabant 
imperio. Sed propter desidiam Regum, et domesticus dissensiones, 
et bella civilia * * singuli in proprio solo armis libertatem molieban- 
tur defendere/' Erchanberti Fragm. (written in the time of Carl 
Martel) : " Illis namque temporibus ac deinceps Gotefredus, Dux 
Alamannorum, caeterique circumquaque Duces noluerunt obtempe- 
rare Ducibus Francorum eo quod non potuerunt regibus Merovseis 
servire sicut antea soliti fuerant. Ideo se unusquisque secam tenxtit 
donee tandem aliquando post mortem Gotefridi Ducis Carlus, ca> 
terique Principes Francorum paulatim ad se revocare illos arte 
qua poterant studuere." 

234 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

who bore the name of kings, or the turbulent mayors 
and seigniors, who were wholly occupied with plotting 
and counterplotting, railing and fighting, against one 
another, at all in a position to call the subject states 
to account, or to excite in them the desire of being 
incorporated with an empire harassed and torn by 
intestine dissensions. The Frankish empire was in 
process of dissolution, and all the more distant tribes, 
as the Bavarians, the Alemannians, Frisians, Bretons, 
and Gascons, had virtually recovered their inde- 
pendence. But this partial decline of the Frankish 
power was simply the result of misgovernment, and 
the domestic feuds which absorbed the martial vi- 
gour of the nation ; and by no means indicated the 
decline of a military spirit in the Frankish people. 
They only needed a centre of union and a leader 
worthy of them, both of which they found in Pepin, 
to give them once more the hegemony over all the 
German tribes, and prepare them for the conquest of 
Europe. 1 The Frisians were subdued, or rather 
repressed for a time, in a. d. 697, after a gallant 
resistance under their king Ratbod; and about 
twelve years afterwards we find the son of Pepin, 
Grimoald, forming a matrimonial alliance with Theu- 
delinda, daughter of the Frisian monarch ; a fact which 
plainly implies that Pepin desired to cultivate the 
friendship of his warlike neighbours. 2 The Suabians, 

1 AnnaLMett, an. 690— 695. : "Confluebant autem ad eumcir- 
cumsitarum gentium legationes, Graecorum scilicet Romanorum, Lan- 
gobardorum, Hunorum, quoque et Sclavorum atque Saracenorum." 

2 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. cii., civ. 


or Alemanni, were also attacked and defeated by 
Pepin on their own territories ; but their final sub- 
jection was completed by his son Carl Martel. 

The wars carried on by Pepin with the above-men- 
tioned nations, to which in this place we can only 
briefly allude, occupied him nearly twenty years ; and 
were greatly instrumental in preserving peace at 
home, and consolidating the foundations of the Car- 
lovingian throne. The stubborn resistance he met 
with from the still heathen Germans, was animated 
with something of that zeal, against which his great 
descendant Charlemagne had to contend in his inter- 
minable Saxon wars ; for the adoption of Christianity, 
which was hated, not only as being hostile to the 
superstitions of their forefathers, but on account of 
the heavy taxes by which it was accompanied, was 
always made by Pepin the indispensable condition of 
mercy and peace. But, happily for the cause of Gos- 
pel truth, other means were used for the spread of 
Christianity than the sword and the scourge; and the 
labours of many a zealous and self-sacrificing mis- 
sionary from Ireland and England, served to convince 
the rude German tribes, that the warrior-priests 
Avhom they had met on the battle-field, and the greedy 
tax-gatherers who infested their homes, were not the 
true ambassadors of the Prince of Peace. And Pepin, 
who was by no means a mere warrior, was well aware 
of the value of these peaceful efforts ; and afforded 
zealous aid to all who ventured their lives in the holy 
cause of human improvement and salvation. The 
civil governors whom he established in the conquered 

236 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

provinces were directed to do all in their power to 
promote the spread of Christianity by peaceful means; 
and, to give effect to his instructions, Pepin warned 
them that he should hold them responsible for the 
lives of his pious missionaries. 

During these same twenty years, in which Pepin 
was playing the important and brilliant part assigned 
to him by Providence, the pale and bloodless shadows 
of four Merovingian kings flit gloomily across the 
scene. We know little or nothing of them except 
their names, and the order in which they followed 
each other. Theoderic III. died a. d. 691, and was 
succeeded by Clovis III., who reigned till a. d. 695 
and was followed by Childebert III. On the death of 
Childebert in a. d. 711, Pepin raised Dagobert III. to 
the nominal throne, where he left him when he him- 
self departed from the scene of his labours and 
triumphs ; and this is really all that we feel called 
upon to say of the descendants of the conquerors of 
Gaul and founders of the Western Empire ; " inclitum 
et notum olim, nunc tantum auditur ! " l 

The extraordinary power which Pepin exercised at 
a period when law was weak, and authority extended 
no further than the sword could reach; when the 
struggles of the rising feudal aristocracy for inde- 
pendence had convulsed the empire and brought it 
to the verge of anarchy, sufficiently attests the ability 

1 Tac. Germ. xli. Annal. Francor. ad an. 714. : " Pippinus 
Dux Francorum • • obtinuit regnum Francorum per annos 
xxvn, cum Regibus sibi subjectis, Hluduwigo, Hildiberto, et Dago- 


and courage, the wisdom and moderation, with which 
he ruled. His triumphs over the ancient dynasty, and 
the Neustrian faction, were far from being the most 
difficult of his achievements. He had to control the 
very class to which he himself belonged ; to curb the 
turbulent spirits of the very men who had raised him 
to his proud pre-eminence ; and to establish regal au- 
thority over those by whose aid he had humbled the 
ancient kings : and all this he succeeded in doing by 
the extraordinary influence of his personal character. 
So firmly indeed had he established his government, 
and subdued the wills of the envious seigniors 
by whom he was surrounded, that even when he 
showed his intention of making his power hereditary in 
his family, they dared not, at the time, oppose his will. 1 
On the death of Norbert, major-domus at the court 
of Childebert III., Pepin — in all probability without 
even consulting the seigniors, in whom the right of 
election rested — appointed his second son Grimoald 
to the vacant office. To his eldest son Dro&x) he had 
already given the Mayoralty of Burgundy, with the 
title of Duke of Campania. But though they dared 
not make any opposition at the time, it is evident from 
what followed that the fear of Pepin alone restrained 
the rage they felt at this open usurpation. In a. d. 
714, when Pepin's life was drawing to a close, and 
he lay at Jopil near Liege upon a bed of sickness, 
awaiting patiently his approaching end, the great 
vassals took heart, and conspired to deprive his de- 

1 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. ci. 

238 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

scendants of the mayoralty. They employed the 
usual means for effecting their purpose — treachery 
and murder. 1 Grimoald was assassinated, while 
praying in the Church of St. Lambert at Jopil, by a 
Frisian of the name of Eantgar, who relied, no doubt, 
on the complicity of the seigniors and the weak- 
ness of Pepin for impunity. But the conspirators 
had miscalculated the waning sands of the old war- 
rior's life, and little knew the effect which the sight 
of his son's blood would have upon him. He sud- 
denly recovered from the sickness to which he seemed 
to be succumbing. Like another Priam, he once 
more seized his unaccustomed arms, though, unlike 
the royal Trojan, he used them with terrible effect. 
After taking an ample revenge upon the murderers 
of his son, and quenching the spirit of resistance in 
the blood of the conspirators, he was so far from 
giving up his purpose, or manifesting any conscious- 
ness of weakness, that he nominated the infant and 
illegitimate son of Grimoald, as if by hereditary right, 
to the joint mayoralty of Burgundy and Neustria — an 
office which the highest persons in the land would 
have been proud to exercise. 2 By his very last act, 
therefore, he showed the absolute mastery he had ob- 
tained, not only over the " do-nothing " kings, but 

1 Annal. Melt, ad an. 714.: Cum " diutius (Grimoaldus) in 
oratione pronus persisteret, a nequissimo viro nomine Rantgario, 
gladio percussus, occubuit." 

2 Ibid. : " Pippinus vero Princeps de infirmitate convalescens, 
omnes qui in illo consilio fuerant justa ultione interemit." Fred. 
Chron. Cont. c, cii. Annal Mett. : " Ex Concubina Natum (Theu- 

Chal\ v.] death of tepin. 239 

over the factious seigniors, who shrank in terror 
before the wrath of one who had, as it were, repassed 
the gates of death, to hurl destruction on their heads. 
His actual demise took place in the same year, on the 
16th of December, a. d. 714. 

Pepin had two wives, the first of whom, Plectrude, 
bore him two sons, Drogo and Grimoald, neither of 
whom survived their father. In A. r>. 688 he married 
a second wife, the " noble and elegant " Alpais, though 
Plectrudis was still alive. 1 From this second marriage 
sprang the real successor of the Pepins, whom his 
father named in his own language Carl, and who is 
renowned in history as Carl Martel, the bulwark of 
Christendom, the father of kings and emperors. 

Our estimate of the personal greatness of the Car- 
lovingian mayors is greatly raised when we observe 
that each of them in turn, instead of taking quiet 
possession of what his predecessors had won, has to 
reconquer his position in the face of numerous, power- 
ful and exasperated enemies. It was so with Pepin 
of Landen, with Pepin of Heristal, and most of all in 
the case of Carl Martel. 2 

At the death of Pepin the storm which had long 
been gathering, and of which many forebodings had 
appeared in his lifetime, broke forth with tremendous 

1 Fred, Chron.Cont. ciii. : " Uxorem . . . nomine Alpheidaro." 
Ex. Chron. Moiss. ad an. 708 (Monum. Germ. torn, i., p. 289.), 
where she is called Alpaigde (Alpagede). 

2 " Qui Tudetes, i.e. Martellus est agnominatus." — Vita S. 
Sigebertiy c. x. Fred. Chron. civ. : " Magna et valida pertur- 
batio et persecutio exstitit apud gentem Francorum." Conf. Ann. 

240 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

fury. The bands of government were suddenly 
loosened, and the powers which Pepin had wielded 
with such strength and dexterity became the objects 
of a ferocious struggle. Plectrudis, his first wife, an 
ambitious and daring woman, had resolved to reign 
as the guardian of her grandchild, Theudoald, with 
whom she was at that time residing at Cologne. 1 
Theudoald had at least the advantage of being the 
only candidate for power installed by Pepin himself, 
and it was no doubt upon his quasi-hereditary claims 
that Plectrudis based her hopes. She manifested her 
foresight, discrimination, and energy, at the com- 
mencement of the contest which ensued by seizing 
the person of Carl, her stepson, and most formidable 
rival. 2 But Carl and his party were not her only 
opponents. The Neustrians and Burgundians, whom 
their recollections of Brunhilcla and Fredegunda by 
no means inclined to acquiesce in another female 
regency, refused obedience to her commands; and 
endeavoured to excite the puppet-monarch Dagobert 
to an independent exercise of his authority. 3 Their 
zeal as Neustrians too was quickened by the desire 
of throwing off the Austrasian or German yoke, 
which they considered to have been fixed upon them 
by the victories and energetic rule of Pepin. It was 

1 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. civ. Chron. Moiss. an. 715. 

2 Annah Mett. an. 715.: "Incomparabili odio contra Carolum 


3 Ann. Mett. an. 715.: " Quod (regnum) dum crudelius quam 
oporteret astu fernineo disponere decrevisset, iram Niustrium 
Francorum in nepotis sui interitum et Principum qui cum eo 
erant celeriter convertit." 


owing to this hostile feeling between the Romance 
and the German portions of the empire that many 
even of Pepin's partizans 1 took side with Theudoald 
and Plectrudis, although the latter held their chief 
incarcerated. The revolted Neustrians and the army 
of Plectrudis encountered each other in the forest of 
Guise, near Compiegne ; and, as far as one can con- 
jecture from the confused and contradictory accounts 
of the annalists, Plectrudis and Theudoald suffered 
a defeat. The Neustrians having obtained the mas- 
tery over the hated Germans in their own country, 
prepared to extend their authority to Austrasia 
itself. Having chosen Raginfried as their inajor- 
domus, they suddenly marched into the Austrasian 
territory, and laid it waste with fire and sword as 
far as the river Meuse. In spite of their Christian pro- 
fession they sought further to strengthen themselves 
by an alliance \vith Ratbod, the heathen King of the 
Frisians, who at the death of Pepin had recovered 
his independence, and the greater portion of his ter- 
ritory. 2 

In the meantime, the whole aspect of affairs was 

1 The author of the Annal. Mett. an. 715., charges them with 
ungratefully forgetting all the benefits conferred on them by Pepin : 
*' Tunc gens ilia omnium beneficiorum invicti Principis par iter 
oblita? The expression in Fredegar (Chron. Cont. civ.) is 
" Leudes Pippini," which is very obscure in this place. 

2 Frcdeg. Chron, Cont. civ. (We gather this from the flight of 
Theudoald) : " Corruit ibi immodicus exercitus, Theudoaldus 
itaque a sodalibus suis per fugam lapsus evasit." Annal. Mett. : 
" Theodaldus cum paucis vix evasit, qui non multo post tempore 
vitam innocentem finivit." 


242 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

suddenly changed by the escape of Carl from cus- 
tody. 1 The defeated army of Plectrudis, and many 
of the Austrasian seigniors, who were unwilling to 
support her cause even against the Neustrians, now 
rallied with the greatest alacrity round the youthful 
hero, and proclaimed him Dux Francorum by the 
title of his glorious father. In a very short time 
after the recovery of his freedom, Carl found him- 
self at the head of a very efficient, though not 
numerous army. He was still, however, surrounded 
by dangers and difficulties, under which a man of 
less extraordinary powers must inevitably have 

Daefobert III. died soon after the battle of Com- 
piegne; and the Neustrians, who had felt the dis- 
advantage of his imbecility, neglected the claims of 
his son, and raised a priest called Daniel, a reputed 
son of Childeric, to the throne, with the title of 
Chilperic II. 2 This monarch, who appears to have 
had a greater degree of energy than his immediate 
predecessors, formed a plan with the Frisian king for 
a combined attack upon Cologne, by which he hoped 
at once to bring the Avar to a successful issue. Rat- 
bod, true to his engagements, advanced with a 
numerous fleet of vessels up the Rhine, while Chil- 
peric and Raginfricd were marching towards Cologne 
through the forest of Ardennes. To prevent this 

1 Fred. Chron. Cont. cv. Ckron. Moissiac. Paullus Diac. 
vi. 42. 

2 Fred. Chron. Cont. cvi.: " Danihelem quondam Clericum 
cnesarie capitis crcscente in Regnum stabiliunt " 


well-planned junction, Carl determined to fall upon 
the Frisians before they reached Cologne. His 
position must have been rendered still more critical 
by the failure . of this attack. We read that after 
both parties had suffered considerable loss in a hard- 
fought battle, they retreated on equal terms. 1 

The short time which elapsed before the arrival of 
the Neustrians was spent by Carl in summoning his 
friends from every quarter, to assist him in the 
desperate struggle in which he was engaged. In the 
meantime Chilperic came up, and, encamping in the 
neighbourhood of Cologne, effected a junction with 
the Frisians. Contrary to expectation, however, no 
attack was made upon Plectrudis, who is said to have 
bribed the Frisians to retire. A better reason for 
the precipitate retreat of the Neustrians and Frisians 
(which now took place) was the clanger which the 
former ran of having their retreat cut off by Carl, who 
had taken up a strong position in their rear, with con- 
tinually increasing forces ; as it was, they were not 
permitted to retire in safety. Carl attacked them 
at Ambleve, near Stablo, in the Ardennes, and gave 
them a total defeat. This victory put him in posses- 
sion of Cologne, and the person of Plectrudis, who 
restored to him his father's treasures. 

In the following year, a.d. 717, Carl assumed the 
offensive, and, marching through the Silva Carbona- 
via, began to lay waste the Neustrian territory. Chil- 
peric and Raginfried advanced to meet him, doubtless 

1 Annal. Mett. an. 716. 
r 2 

244 THE FRANKS, [Chap. V. 

with far less confidence than before ; and both armies 
encamped at Vinci, in the territory of Cambrai. Carl, 
with an hereditary moderation peculiarly admirable 
in a man of his warlike spirit, sent .envoys to the 
Neustrian camp to offer conditions of peace ; and to 
induce Chilperic to acknowledge his claim to the 
office of major-domus in Austrasia, " that the blood 
of so many noble Franks might not be shed." l Carl 
himself can have expected no other fruit from these 
overtures than the convincing of his own followers of 
the unreasonableness of their enemies. The Neus- 
trian king and his evil adviser rejected the proferred 
terms with indignation, and declared their intention 
of taking from Carl even that portion of his inheri- 
tance which had already fallen into his hands. Both 
sides then prepared for battle ; Carl, as we are ex- 
pressly told, having first communicated to the chief 
men in his camp the haughty and threatening answer 
of the king. Chilperic relied on his great superiority 
in numbers, though his army was drawn, for the most 
part, from the dregs of the people : Carl prepared to 
meet him with a small but highly-disciplined force of 
well-armed and skilful warriors. In the battle which 
ensued on the 21st of March, the Neustrians were 
routed with tremendous loss, and pursued by the 
victors to the very gates of Paris. But Carl was 
not yet in a condition to keep possession of j\ T eustria, 
and he therefore led his army back to Cologne, and 
ascended the " throne of his kingdom," as the an- 

1 Annal. Mett. an. 717, 

Chap. V.J AQUITA1NE. 245 

nalist already calls it, the dignissimus hcvres of his 
mighty father. 1 

The unfortunate Chilperic, unequal as he must 
have felt himself to cope with a warrior like Carl, 
was once more induced by evil counsellors to renew 
the war. With this view he sought the alliance 
of the imperfectly subjected neighbouring states, 
whom the death of Pepin had awakened to dreams 
of independence. Of these the foremost was Aqui- 
taine, which had completely emancipated itself from 
Frankish rule. The Aquitania of the Roman empire 
extended, as is well known, from the Pyrenees to the 
river Loire. This country, at the dissolution of the 
Western Empire, had fallen into the hands of the 
Visigoths, and was subsequently conquered, and to 
a certain extent subjugated, by the earlier Mero- 
vingians. But, though nominally part of the Frank- 
ish empire, it continued to enjoy a semi-independence 
under its native dukes, and remained for many ages 
a stone of offence to the Frankish rulers. Its popu- 
lation, notwithstanding the admixture of German 
blood consequent on the Gothic conquest, had re- 
mained pre-eminently Roman in its character, and 
had attained in the seventh century to an unusual 
degree of wealth and civilisation. The southern part 
of Aquitaine had been occupied by a people called 
Vascones or Gascons, who extended themselves as far 
as the Garonne, and had also submitted to the Frank- 
ish rule during the better clays of the elder dynasty. 

1 Annal. Mett. 
r 3 

216 THE FRANKS. [CuAr. V. 

The temporary collapse of the Frankish power 
consequent upon the bloody feuds of the royal house, 
and the struggle between the seigniors and the crown, 
enabled Eudo, the Duke of Aquitaine, to establish 
himself as a perfectly independent Prince ; and he 
and his sons ruled in full sovereignty over both 
Aquitaine and Gascony, and were called indifferently 
Aquitanice or Vasconice duces. 

Under these circumstances, it is not to be won- 
dered at that Eudo should gladly receive the presents 
and overtures made to him by Chilperic ; who agreed 
to leave him in quiet possession of the independence 
he had contumaciously asserted, on condition of his 
making cause against the Austrasian mayor. 1 He 
lost no time in leading an army of Gascons to Paris, 
where he joined his forces to those of Chilperic, and 
prepared to meet the terrible foe. Carl advanced 
with his usual rapidity, and having laid waste a por- 
tion of Neustria, came upon the enemy in the neigh- 
bourhood of Soissons. The new allies, who had 
scarcely had time to consolidate their union and 
mature their plans, appear to have made but a feeble 
resistance ; and Chilperic, not considering himself 
safe even in Paris, fled with his treasures, in com- 
pany with Eudo, into Aquitaine. 2 Ragin fried, the 
Neustrian major-domus, who with a division of the 
combined army had also made an attempt to check 
Carl's progress, was likewise defeated and compelled 

1 Fred. Chron. Cont. cvii. 

2 Chron. Moissiac. an. 717. Reginonis Chron. (Monum. Germ. 
torn, i.) 


to resign his mayoralty ; as a compensation for which 
he received from the placable conqueror the count- 
ship of Anjou. 

The victorious Austrasians pursued the fugitives 
as far as the river Loire and Orleans, from which 
place Carl sent an embassy to Euclo, and offered him 
terms of peace, on condition of his delivering up 
Chilperic and his treasures. It is difficult to say 
what answer Eudo, hemmed in as he was on all sides 
(for the Saracens were in his rear), might have given 
to this demand, — whether he would have consulted 
his own interests, or his duty to his ally and guest. 
But the opportune death of Clotaire, whom Carl had 
made king of Austrasia after the battle of Ambleve, 
relieved him from his dilemma. Carl, who was 
remarkably free from the evil spirit of revenge, de- 
clared his readiness to acknowledge Chilperic II. as 
king, on condition of being himself appointed major- 
domus of the united kingdoms of Austrasia, Neustria, 
and Burgundy. These terms, offered by the victor 
to one whose very life was at his mercy, could not 
but be eagerly accepted 1 ; and thus, in a.d. 719, 
Carl became nominally Mayor of the Palace to King 
Chilperic II., but, in fact, undisputed master of the 
king himself and the whole Frankish empire. 

The temperate course pursued by Carl in these 
transactions, proceeded in a great measure from the 
natural moderation of his character; but it was a 

1 Fred. Cliron. Cont. an. 720. Annal. Mett. 

it 4 

248 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

course which the coolest calculation would suggest. 
He was indeed victorious, but he was still sur- 
rounded by enemies who were rather beaten than 
subdued, and many of them were those of his own 

After the death of Ratbod, the " cruel and pagan " 
king of the Frisians, in a.d. 719, Carl recovered the 
western portion of Friesland, and reduced the Frisians 
to their former state of uncertain subjection. 1 About 
the same time he repelled the Saxons, those un- 
wearied and implacable enemies of the Frankish 
name, who had broken into the Frankish gaus on 
the right bank of the Rhine. We know little of the 
particulars of these campaigns, since the chroniclers 
content themselves with recording in general terms 
that the " invincible Carl " was always victorious, 
and his enemies utterly destroyed ; a statement which 
is rendered suspicious by the fact that their annihila- 
tion has to be repeated frequently, and at no long 

In the year after the Saxon campaign (the date of 
which is rather uncertain), Carl crossed the Rhine, 
and attacked the Alemanni (in Wirtemberg) in their 
own country, which he devastated without any serious 
opposition. Subsequently, about a. d. 725, he crossed 
the Danube, and entered the country of the Ba- 
varians; and after two successful campaigns obliged 
that nation also to acknowledge their allegiance to the 
Franks, From this expedition, says the chronicler, 

1 Annal. Mett. 


" he returned by the Lord's assistance to his own 
dominions with great treasures and a certain matron, 
by name Plectrude, and her niece Sonihilde." l This 
latter, who is called by Einhard " Swanahilde, the 
niece of Odilo," subsequently became one of CaiTs 
wives, and the mother of the unfortunate Gripho. 

It seems natural to conjecture, that Carl had an 
important ulterior object before his mind in these ex- 
traordinary and sustained exertions. They were but 
the prelude to the grand spectacle soon to be pre- 
sented to an admiring world, in which this mighty 
monarch with the humble name was to play a con- 
spicuous and glorious part. A contest awaited him, 
which he must Ions: have foreseen with mingled feel- 
ings of eagerness and apprehension, and into which he 
dared not go unprepared ; a contest which required 
the highest exercise of his own active genius, and the 
uncontrolled disposal of all the material resources of 
his empire. He had hitherto contended for his here- 
ditary honours against his personal enemies — for the 
supremacy of the Germans over the Gallo Romans, 
of his own tribe over kindred German tribes — and 
finally, for order and good government against anarchy 
and faction. Hereafter he was to renew the old 
struggle between the West and East — to be the cham- 
pion of Christianity and German Institutions, against 
the false and degrading faith of Mohammed, and all 
the corrupting and enervating habits of the oriental 

1 Annal. Mutt. Fred. Chron. Cont. cviii. "Bilitrude.*' 

250 THE FRANKS. [CflAr. V. 

The most sober history of the rise and progress of 
Islamism, and the Arabian empire, which was founded 
on it, has all the characteristics of an eastern fable. 
In the beginning of the seventh century, an Arabian 
of the priestly house of Haschem retired into a cave 
at Mecca, to brood over the visions of a powerful but 
morbid imagination. The suggestions of his own 
distempered mind, and the impulses of his own strong 
will, were mistaken for the inspiration and the com- 
mands of the Almighty, concerning whom his notions 
were in part adopted from the Jewish and Christian 
Scriptures. He learned to regard himself as the 
chosen instrument of God, for the introduction of a 
new faith and the establishment of a power, before 
which all the nations of the earth should bow. When 
his meditations had assumed consistency, he shaped 
them into a system of faith and practice, which he 
confidently proposed for the acceptance of mankind, 
as the most perfect and glorious expression of the di- 
vine mind and will. His belief in himself, in his own 
infallibility, and the perfection of his system, was so 
absolute, that he regarded all other men in the light 
of children, who, if they cannot be persuaded, must 
be forced, into the right path. The sword was the 
only logic he considered suitable to the case ; and death 
or the Koran was the sole alternative which his fol- 
lowers thought fit to offer. 

For a time the lofty pretensions of the prophet 
were acknowledged only by a few, and those few 
belonged to his own family. But his system, spring- 
ing as it did from an eminently oriental mind, 


was wonderfully adapted to the wants and tastes of 
oriental nations. The only true and valuable parts of 
it, indeed, are mutilated shreds from the covenants of 
Abraham and Moses and the Revelation of our blessed 
Saviour; but while the sublimity of these* afforded 
suitable objects of contemplation to the nobler fa- 
culties of the soul, the strongest passions of fallen 
human nature, pride, revenge, and lust, were not 
denied their appropriate gratification. ! What could 
be more acceptable to the natural man than a system 
which quiets the conscience amidst the excesses of 
sensual love, which takes away the necessity for self- 
discipline by the doctrine of fatalism, which teaches 
men to look down with a lofty contempt upon all 
who think differently from themselves, and, lastly, 
holds out as a reward for the coercion and destruction 
of opponents an eternity of voluptuous enjoyment in 
the society of celestial courtezans? Much no doubt 
was done by the sword of the hardy and impetuous 
sons of Ishmael, but this could not alone have spread 
the Koran over half the world ; the very faults which 
make it odious in Christian eyes, gave wings to its 
progress, and excited in its favour a deep and frenzied 

In a. d. 622, Mohammed was obliged to flee to 
Medina, from the virulent opposition of the members 
of his own tribe. Within ninety years from that time 
his successors and disciples had conquered and con- 
verted, not Arabia alone, but Syria, Persia, Palestine, 
Phoenicia, Egypt, Asia Minor, Armenia, the country 
between iho Black Sea and the Caspian, a portion of 

252 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

India, and the whole of the North of Africa from 
the Nile to the Atlantic Ocean. 

The year A. d. 710 found them gazing with long- 
ing eyes across the straits of Gibraltar, eager for the 
time when they might plant upon the rock of Calpe 
the meteor standard of their prophet; and thence 
survey the beautiful and fertile country which was 
soon to be their own. Nor were their hopes deferred : 
their entrance into Spain, which might have proved 
difficult if not impossible to effect in the face of a 
brave and united people, was rendered safe and easy 
by treachery, cowardice, and theological dissensions. 

The first collision, indeed, of the Arabian con- 
querors with the warriors of the West was rather 
calculated to damp their hopes of European conquest. 
The Yisigothic kings of Spain possessed the town of 
Ceuta on the African coast, of which Count Julian, 
at the time of which we speak, was military governor. 
The skill and courage of this great warrior and his 
garrison, had hitherto frustrated all the attempts of 
Musa, the general of the Caliph Walid, to make 
himself master of the place. The Saracens were 
already beginning to despair of success, when they 
suddenly received overtures from Count Julian him- 
self, who now offered, not merely to open the gates 
of Ceuta, but to procure for the Saracens a ready 
admittance into Spain. The grounds of this sudden 
treachery on the part of one who had risked his life 
at the post of honour, cannot be stated with any 
degree of certainty. By some it was ascribed to the 
desire of avenging himself upon Roderic, his king, 



who is said to have abused his daughter l ; and by 
others to the fact that he had espoused the cause of 
Witiza's sons, at that time pretenders to the Spanish 
throne. The Saracen general Musa, delighted to 
have found the Achilles-heel of Europe, immediately 
despatched a few hundred Moslems across the strait, 
under the command of Tarik ; from whom the modern 
Gibraltar (Gebel-al-Tarik) derives its name. These 
adventurers were well received in the town and castle 
of Count Julian at Algesiras, and soon returned to 
their expectant comrades, with rich booty and ex- 
citing tales of the fertility of the country, and the 
effeminacy of the degenerate Goths. 

In the April of the following year, a. p. 711, a 
body of 5000 Saracens effected a landing on the 
coast of Spain, and entrenched themselves strongly 
near the Rock of Gibraltar. These were soon fol- 
lowed by other troops, until a considerable Moslem 
army was collected on the Spanish shores. The 
feeble resistance made to this descent was a fatal 
omen for the empire of the Visigoths. This once 
brave and hardy tribe of Germans had lost, during a 
long peace, the valour and endurance to which they 

1 Roderici Ximenes Navarri, Arch. Tolet. Res. Hispan. lib. iii. 
c. 19. Jo/tan. Mariana Res. Htsp. lib. vi. 21, 22. (Moguntiaa, 
160o) : "In bis Juliani Comitis filia, Cava nomine, in obsequiis 
Reginoe Egilonoe, erat excellenti formag dignitate. Hasc aliquando 
cum gequalibus luden?, corpus cum magna ex parte nudasset, Regis 
animura forte fortuna clam ex fenestra prospicientis vebementer 
perculit .... Ita opportunitatem nactus, quam neque gratia 
flectere, neque nimis et metu frangere potuit, invitam atque reluc- 
tantem virginem vitiavit." 

254 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

owed the rich provinces of Spain ; and, amidst the 
pleasures of that luxurious country, had grown so 
unaccustomed to the use of arms, that it was long 
before they could be roused to meet the foe. At 
length, however, the unwarlike Roderic, having col- 
lected an army four times as great as that of the 
enemy, but without confidence either in their leader 
or themselves, encamped at Xeres de la Frontera, in 
the neighbourhood of Cadiz. 1 While aAvaiting at this 
place the approach of the enemy, the Gothic king is 
represented as sitting in an ivory chariot, arrayed in 
silken garments unworthy of a man even in time of 
peace, and wearing a golden crown upon his head. 
The battle which quickly followed was fought on the 
26th of July, A. d. 731. It was of short duration 
and of no doubtful issue. The timid herd of Goths, 
scarcely awaiting the wild charge of the Saracens, 
turned and fled in irretrievable confusion. Roderic 
himself, fit leader of such an army, was among the 
first to leave the field on the back of a fleet racer, 
which had been placed, at his desire, in the neigh- 
bourhood of his tent, as if his trembling heart had 
foreseen the issue. 

The Visigothic empire in Spain fell by a single 
blow. Tarik advanced with his victorious army 
as far as Cordova, which immediately yielded at his 
summons ; and he would, without doubt, have over- 
run the whole of Spain, had he not been recalled by 
the jealousy of Musa, who reserved for himself the 
glory of completing the splendid conquest. 

1 Chron. Moissiac. 


Of all the Spanish towns which were captured on 
this occasion, Seville and Mericla alone appear to 
have upheld the ancient glories of the Gothic name ; 
but even these were finally reduced, and the last 
remnants of the Visigoths were driven from the rich 
plains they had so long possessed into the mountains 
of Asturias. It was in these rugged solitudes, and 
amidst the hardships and privations which they there 
endured, that they regained their ancient vigour, and 
preserved their Christian faith. It was thence that 
at a later period they descended upon their Moorish 
foes, and in many a hard-fought battle, the frequent 
theme of ballad and romaunt, recovered, step by 
step, the fair possessions which their ancestors had 
won and lost. 

And thus by a single victory Spain was added to 
the vast dominions of the Caliph, and the Cross once 
more retired before the Crescent. Nor did it seem 
that the Pyrenees, any more than the rock of 
Gibraltar, were to prove a barrier to the devastating 
flood of Islamism. About A. d. 718, Zama, the 
Arabian Viceroy of Spain, made himself master of 
that portion of Gaul, on the slopes of the Eastern 
Pyrenees, of which the Goths had hitherto retained 
possession. In A. d. 731 he stormed Narbonne, the 
capital of the province, and having put all the male 
inhabitants capable of bearing arms to the sword, he 
sent away the women and children into captivity. 
He then pushed forward into Aquitaine, and laid 
siege to Toulouse, which proved the limit of his 
progress; for it was there that he was defeated by 

256 THE FRANKS. [Ciiap. V. 

EudOj the duke of the country, who was roused to a 
desperate effort by the danger of his capital. 1 The 
check thus given to the onward march of the 
Moslems was of short duration. Ambiza, the suc- 
cessor of Zama, about four years afterwards once 
more made a movement in advance. Taking a more 
easterly direction, he stormed and plundered Car- 
cassonne and Nismes ; and having devastated the 
country as far as the Rhone, returned laden with 
booty across the Pyrenees. 2 

Duke Eudo of Aquitaine, deprived of the fruits of 
his single victory, resigned all hopes of successfully 
resisting the invaders, and endeavoured to preserve 
himself from utter ruin by an alliance with his 
formidable foes. He is even said to have so far 
belied his character of Christian prince as to give 
his own daughter in marriage, or concubinage, to 
Munuz, the governor of the newly-made Gallic 
conquests. 3 

It appears that the expeditions of the Saracens 
into Gaul had been hitherto made by individual 
generals on a comparatively small scale, and on 
their own responsibility. The unusually slow pro- 
gress of their arms at this period, is to be ascribed 
less to any fear of opposition, than to inward dis- 
sensions in the Arabian empire, and a rapid suc- 
cession of caliphs singularly unlike in their characters 
and views. Nine short years (a. d. 715 — 724,) had 

1 Roderic. Hist. Arab. c. 11. 

2 Chron. Moissiac. an. 725. 

3 Marca de Marc. Hispan. ii. c. 3. 


seen the cruel Soliman succeeded by the severe, yet 
just and upright Omar, the luxurious Epicurean 
Yesicl, and the little-minded, calculating Hescham. 

It is probable, therefore, that, amid more pressing 
anxieties and interests, the distant conquest of Spain 
was forgotten or neglected by the court at Da- 
mascus ; and that the generals, who commanded in 
that country, were apt to indulge in ideas inconsistent 
with their real position as satraps and slaves of an 
imperial master. But a change was at hand, and the 
new actor Abderrahman, who suddenly appeared upon 
the scene with an army of 400,000 men, was charged 
with a twofold commission, — to chastise the pre- 
sumption of Munuz, whose alliance with Eudo was 
regarded with suspicion, — and to bring the whole of 
Gaul under the sceptre of the Caliph and the law of 
Mohammed. Regarding Munuz as a rebel and a 
semi-apostate, Abderrahman besieged him in the town 
of Cerdagne 1 , to which he fled for refuge, and, having 
driven him to commit suicide, sent his head, together 
with his wife, the daughter of Eudo, as a welcome 
present to the Caliph Hescham. 2 

The victorious Saracens then marched on past 
Pampeluna, and, making their way through the 
narrow defiles on the western side of the Pyrenean 

1 " Cerritanense oppidum?' — Chron, Isidor. (Bouq. ii. p. 720.) 

2 Roderic. Hist. Arab. c. 13. Ex Chron. Isidor i, an. 731. 
(Bouquet, ii.) : " Rebellem inimisericorditer insequitur." Munuz 
meets with no pity from the Episcopal Chronicler. His fate 
befell him, " judicio Deo," because he was " drunk with the blood 
of Christians," and was already " satis damnatus ab hoc " that he 
had burnt Bishop Anambadus. Annal. Mett. ad an. 732. 


258 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

chain, poured down upon the plains with their in- 
numerable hosts as far as the river Garonne. The 
city of Bordeaux was taken and sacked, and still they 
pressed on impetuously and without opposition, until 
they reached the river Dordogne, where Eudo, burn- 
ing with rage at the treatment which his daughter 
had received, made a fruitless attempt to stop them. 
Irritated rather than checked by his feeble efforts, 
the overwhelming tide poured on. The standard of 
the Prophet soon floated from the towers of Poitiers, 
and even Tours, the city of the holy St. Martin, was 
in danger of being polluted by the presence of in- 
sulting infidels, when, in the hour of Europe's greatest 
dread and danger, the champion of Christendom 
appeared at last, to do battle with the hitherto 
triumphant enemies of the Cross. 1 

It seems strange at first sight that the danger, 
which had so long been threatening Europe from the 
side of Spain, should not have called forth an earlier 
and more effectual resistance from those whose na- 
tional and religious existence was at stake. Abder- 
rahman had now made his way into the very centre 
of modern France ; had taken and plundered some of 
the wealthiest towns in the Frankish empire ; and, 
after burning or desecrating every Christian church 
he met with, was marching on the hallowed sanctuary 
of the patron saint, enriched by the offerings of ages ; 
without encountering a single foe who could even 
hope to stay his progress. Where was the 4; invincible " 

1 Fred. Cbron. Cont. cviii. Ex Chron. Isidori. 


and ubiquitous Carl, who was wont to fall like a 
thunderbolt upon his enemies ? We might indeed 
be surprised at his seeming tardiness, did we not 
know the extraordinary difficulties with which he 
had to struggle, and the seemingly impossible task he 
had to perform. It was not with the modern super- 
stition of Mohammed alone that he had to contend, 
but with the hoary heathenism of the North ; not 
with the Saracens alone, but with his barbarous 
kinsmen — with nations as hardy and warlike as his 
own Austrasian warriors, and animated no less than 
the followers of Mohammed with an indomitable 
hatred of the Christian name. Enemies were ready 
to pour upon him from every side, from the green 
slopes of the Pyrenees and over the broad waters of 
the Rhine ; nor could he reckon upon the fidelity of 
all who lay within these boundaries. 

During the whole of the ten years in which the 
Saracens were crossing the Pyrenees and establishing 
themselves in Gaul, Carl was constantly engaged in 
wars with his German neighbours. In that short 
period he made campaigns against the Frisians, the 
Swabians, and the Bavarians, the last of whom (as 
we have seen) he even crossed the Danube to attack 
in their own country. As late as a. d. 728, when 
Abderrahman must have been already meditating 
his desolating march, Carl had to turn his arms once 
more against the Saxons; and in A. d. 731, the very 
year before he met the Saracens at Poitiers, he 
marched an army into Aquitaine to quell the rebellion 
of Duke Euclo. 

s 2 


Such were some of the adverse circumstances under 
which Carl had to make his preparations, and under 
which he encamped with his veterans in the neigh- 
bourhood of Poitiers, where, for the first time in his 
life, he beheld the white tents of the Moslem invaders, 
covering the land as far as the eye could reach. 

We cannot doubt that he had long been looking 
forward to this hour with an anxious though intrepid 
heart, for all depended upon him; and that the wars 
in which he had lately been engaged, were the more 
important in his eyes, because their successful termi- 
nation was necessary to secure his rear, and increase 
the limits of his war-ban when the time for action 
should arrive. 

The hitherto unconquered Saracens, who had carried 
the banner of their Prophet in almost uninterrupted 
triumph from the deserts of Arabia to the banks of 
the Loire, were destined to find at last an insuper- 
able barrier in the brave hearts of Carl and his Aus- 
trasian followers. 

On a Sunday, in the month of October, A. d. 732, 
after trying each other's strength in skirmishes of 
small importance during the whole of the previous 
week, the two armies, invoking respectively the aid 
of Christ and Mohammed, came to a general engage- 
ment on the plains between Poitiers and Tours. The 
rapid onslaught of the Ishmaelites, by which they 
were accustomed to bear everything before them, 
recoiled from the steady valour and iron front of the 
Franks, whose heavy swords made dreadful havoc 
among their lightly clad opponents. Repulsed, but 


unbroken in courage and determination, resolved to 
force their way through that wall of steel or to dash 
themselves to death against it, the gallant Moslems 
repeated their wild charges until sunset. At every 
repulse their blood flowed in torrents, and at the 
end of the day they found themselves farther than 
ever from the goal, and gazed upon far more dead 
upon the slippery field than remained alive in their 
ranks. Hopeless of being able to renew the contest, 
they retreated in the night, and, for the first time, 
fled before an enemy. On the following morning, 
when the Franks again drew up in battle-array, the 
camp of the foe was discovered to be empty, so 
that, instead of awaiting the attack, they had the 
more agreeable task of plundering the tents and 
pursuing the fugitives. Abderrahman himself was 
found among the dead, and around him, according 
to the not very credible account of the chroniclers, 
lay 300,000 of his soldiers ; while the Franks lost only 
1500 men. 1 

Eudo, who, after his defeat on the Dorclogne, had 
taken refuge with his more merciful enemy Carl, was 
present in the battle and took part in the pursuit and 
plunder. It was after this glorious triumph over the 
most formidable enemies of his country and religion 
that Carl received the surname of Martel (the 

1 " Ut in Epistola ab Eudone missa Gregorio Papa? de eadem 
victoria continetur." — Beginon. Chron. Conf. Frecleg. Chron. 
Cont. cviii. Chron. Moissiac. an. 732. Annal. Mett. an. 732. 
Ex Chron. Isiclor. an. 732. Paull. Diacon. vi. 46. This writer 
says that the Saracens lost 375,000 ! 

5 3 

262 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

hammer), by which he has since been known in 
history. 1 

The importance of this victory to all succeeding 
ages has often been enlarged upon, and can hardly be 
exaggerated. The fate of Europe, humanly speaking, 
hung upon the sword of the Frankish mayor ; and 
but for Carl, and the bold German warriors who had 
learned the art and practice of war under him and 
his glorious father, the heart of Europe might even 
now be in the possession of the Moslem; and the 
Mosque and the Harem might stand where now we 
see the spire of the Christian church, and the borne 
of the Christian family. 

Though an effective check had been given to the 
progress of the Saracen arms, and they themselves 
had been deprived of that chief support of fanatic 
valour, — the belief in their own invincibility, — yet 
their power was by no means broken, nor was Carl 
in a condition to improve his victory. The Neustrians 
and Bur^undians were far from being reconciled to 
the supremacy which the German Franks had acquired 
over themselves under the mighty Carlovingian 
mayors. Their jealousy of Carl Martel's success 
and their hatred of his person, were so much stronger 
than their zeal in the cause of Christendom, that even 
while he was engaged in his desperate conflict with 
the Saracens, they were raising a rebellion in his rear. 
But the indefatigable warrior was not sleeping on 
the fresh laurels he had won. No sooner had he 

1 Vita S. Sigebert. c. iv. Ex Ademari Cbron. an. 732. (Bouquet, 
ii. pp. 641, 642.) 


received intelligence of their treacherous designs, 
than he led his troops, fresh from the slaughter of 
the Infidels, into the very heart of Burgundy, and 
inflicted a terrible retribution on his domestic foes. 
He then removed all whom he had reason to suspect 
from their posts of emolument and honour, and be- 
stowed them upon men on whom he could depend 
in the hour of danger. 1 

In the following year, a. d. 734, he made consi- 
derable progress in the subjugation and, what was 
even more difficult, the conversion of the Frisians, 
who hated Christianity the more because it was con- 
nected in their minds with a foreign yoke. The 
preaching of Boniface was powerfully seconded by 
the sword of Carl, who attacked them by land and 
sea, defeated their Duke, Poppo, destroyed their hea- 
then altars, and, like our own Alfred in the case of 
the Danes, gave them the alternative of Christianity 
or death. 2 

After the victory of Poitiers, Carl had entrusted 
the defence of the Pyrenean borders to Duke Eudo, 
whom he left in peaceable though dependent posses- 
sion of his territories. Eudo had received a rough 
lesson from his former misfortunes, and passed the 
remainder of his life in friendly relations with his 

1 Fredeg. Cbron. Cont. cix. Anna!. Mett. an. 734. 

2 Epist. S. Bonifacii, xii., ad Daniel. Episc. : " Sine patrocinio 
Principis Francorum nee Populum regere, nee Presbyterc-s vel 
Diaconos, Monachos, vel ancillas Dei defendere possum, nee ipsos 
paganorum ritus et sacrilegia idolorum in Germania sine illius 
mandate- et timore prohibere valeo." 

s 4 

264 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

Frankish liege lord. At the death of Eudo, in A. D. 
735, a dispute arose between his sons, Hunold and 
Hatto, respecting the succession ; and it seems that in 
the course of their contest they had forgotten their 
common dependence upon Carl Martel. A feud of 
this nature at such a period, and in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the Saracens, was highly dangerous 
to Aquitaine and the whole Frankish empire. Carl 
therefore lost no time in leading an army into the 
distracted province, to settle the disputes of the con- 
tending parties, and bring the population into a more 
complete state of subjection. Having advanced to 
the Garonne and taken the city of Bordeaux, he 
entered into negotiations with Hunold ; and, " with 
his accustomed piety," conferred the duchy upon him, 
on condition of his renewing his father's oath of fealty 
to himself and his two sons, whom he thus dis- 
tinctly pointed out to the Franks as their hereditary 
rulers. 1 

In a. d. 737, the infidels were once more intro- 
duced into the south of Gaul by the treachery of 
Christians. A man of influence in Provence, called 
Maurontus, who probably aimed at an independent 
dukedom, formed a strong party among the Neus- 
trian seigniors against the detested German mayor. 2 
As the Arabian alliance was the only one which could 
sustain them in a conflict with Carl, they made no 
scruple of inviting Ibn Jussuf, the new viceroy of 

1 Annal. Mett. an. 735. 

2 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. cix. an. 737. Annal. Mett. an. 737 
and 739. Vales. Franc, xxiv. p. 500. 


Septimania(Languedoc), into their country and giving 
him the city of Avignon as a pledge of their sincerity. 
The Saracens, instructed by their strange allies, passed 
into Burgundy, where the party opposed to Carl was 
strongest: having taken Vienne, they covered the 
country as far as Lyons with their wild and rapid 
cavalry, which everywhere left its traces of fire and 

The advance of the Saracens was so sudden, and 
their progress so rapid, that Carl Martel was not 
immediately prepared to meet them. He therefore 
despatched his brother Childebrand and his principal 
seigniors, with such forces as were ready, to keep the 
enemy in check ; determining himself to follow with a 
numerous and well appointed army. When the ad- 
vanced guard of the Franks arrived near Avignon, the 
Saracens retreated into that place, and prepared to 
stand a siege. On the arrival of Carl the town, which 
had resisted Childebrand, was taken by storm, and the 
Arabian garrison put to the sword. The Franks then 
crossed the Rhone, and marched through Septimania to 
Xarbonne — a place of great importance to the Saracens, 
who had made it a magazine for their arms. It was 
defended at this time by Athima, viceroy of the Caliph 
in Septimania, with a considerable force. The Sara- 
cens of Spain, fearing that the garrison might be in- 
sufficient to withstand the assault of the Franks (who 
had invested the town on every side), fitted out a fleet, 
and transported a body of troops to the mouth of the 
river Berre (near Narbonne), in hopes of raising the 
siege. This movement did not escape the quick eye of 

266 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

Carl ; who, leaving his brother with a division of the 
besiegers, fell with the remainder on the newly landed 
force of the enemy, and routed them with dreadful 
slaughter. He failed, however, in his attempts upon 
Narbonne, which remained in the hands of the Sara- 
cens ; while Bezieres, Agde, Megalone, and Xismes, 
together with all the territory on the north side of 
the river Aude (subsequently known as Languedoc), 
were reunited to the Frankish Empire. 

According to Paullus Diaconus, Carl Martel was 
assisted on this occasion by Luitprand, King of the 
Langobards in Italy, with whom he had formed a 
close alliance and friendship. 1 We have hardly suffi- 
cient grounds for believing; that the Langobards 
took an active part in this war, but the mere ex- 
pectation of their approach may have exercised 
some influence in bringing about the results above 

The activity of his enemies in the north again 
prevented Carl from pursuing his advantages against 
the Moslems, w T ho might perhaps, had German Europe 
been united, have even then been driven back to the 
shores of Africa. In a. d. 737 we find the indefati- 
gable warrior employed in repelling and avenging a 
fresh inroad of the Saxons, whom he defeated w T ith 
great slaughter and drove along the river Lippe. In 
a. d. 739 he again appeared in Burgundy, where his 

1 Paull. Diac. Gest. Longob. vi. c. 53. Carl sent his son Pepin 
to Luitprand at Pavia ; that the Lombard king, " juxta morem," 
might cut off his first hair, — an especial mark of friendship and 
honour. Conf. Juvenal. Sat. iii. 186. 

Chap. V.] STATE OF ITALY. 267 

presence had become necessary to stamp out the 
smouldering embers of the old conspiracy. 1 

In the meantime a new theatre was preparing for 
the Franks, on which they were destined by Provi- 
dence to play a very conspicuous and important part. 
The exertions and influence of Boniface the great 
apostle of Germany, and the intimate religious union 
he had effected between the Frankish Church and 
the Bishops of Rome, were to produce for both 
parties still richer fruits than had yet appeared. 
To understand the circumstances which brought 
them into closer external relations, corresponding 
to the increased intimacy of their spiritual union, 
it will be necessary to make ourselves acquainted 
with the state of Italy at this period ; and more 
especially with the very singular and anomalous 
position of the Bishops of Rome. 

That devoted land, as if in penance for the long 
and selfish tyranny it had exercised over the world, 
had become the prej^, in turn, of almost every 
barbarous tribe of Europe ; but was at this period 
nominally subject to the Emperors of the East. The 
victories of N arses, in a. d. 534, had destroyed the 
power of the Ostrogoths, which, under the great and 
good Theoderic, had seemed so firmly established ; 
and Italy was now a province of the Roman Empire, 
instead of being, as formerly, its centre and head. 
It was governed for the Byzantine court by a viceroy 
styled Exarch, whose residence was at Ravenna, on 
the eastern coast. The court and people of Con- 

1 Annal. Metten. an. 739. 

268 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

stantinople, however, were too feeble to retain for 
any length of time a conquest, which they owed 
solely to the genius of a fortunate general. About 
thirty years after the defeat of the Goths, when the 
valiant eunuch had ceased to defend what he had 
won, the Langobards and 20,000 Saxons, descending 
upon Italy from the Julian Alps, expelled the Ro- 
mans from the greater portion of their recent con- 
quests, and confined them to the narrow limits of 
the Exarchate. The empire which the Langobards 
at this time established was greatly weakened by its 
division into several Duchies, the rulers of which 
were in constant strife with one another and with 
the central government. V\ r e may judge of the extent 
and consequences of these internal dissensions from 
the fact that, after the assassination of King Kleph 
(a.d. 574), the Langobards in Italy remained without 
a king for ten years, and were subject to thirty-six 
dukes, each of whom " reigned in his own city." 
The most powerful of these were the Dukes of 
Benevento, Friuli, and Spoleto. 1 At the end of 
this period the royalist party — favoured, no doubt, 
by the great mass of the people, to whom nothing is 
so hateful as a petty tyrant — once more obtained the 
ascendancy, and compelled the revolted dukes to 
swear fealty to Authari, surnamed Flavius, son of 
the murdered Kleph. 2 The reunion of the Lango- 
bards under one head was naturally followed by a 
further extension of their borders at the expense of 
the Roman empire ; and this extension was the im- 

1 Paull. Diacon. ii. 31, 32. 2 Ibid> iiit 16< 


mediate cause of a collision between the kings of the 
Langobards and the successors of St. Peter, which 
gave rise to the most important and lasting results. 

The Bishops of Rome had, in the meantime, been 
adding to the spiritual influence they owed to their 
position as heads of the Church in the great capital 
of the West, the material resources of extensive 
possessions, and numerous and devoted vassals. 
Like all other dignified ecclesiastics within the im- 
perial dominions, the Bishops of Rome were subject 
to the Greek Emperor 1 ; but, as it was mainly by their 
influence and exertions that the city and duchy of 
Rome were kept in allegiance to the Greek Emperor, 
the balance of obligation was generally in favour of 
the Pontiffs, who, on that account, were treated 
by the court at Constantinople in a far less arrogant 
manner than would have been congenial to the 
pompous sovereigns of the East. 

The aggressive attitude of the Langobards, which 
threatened the Greek Emperors with the loss of the 
small remnant of their Italian possessions, was cal- 
culated to excite no less the apprehensions of the 
Roman Bishops. It was open to them, indeed, to 
throw themselves at once into the arms of the 
Lanafobardian monarchs, from whose reverence and 
gratitude they might, no doubt, have acquired a 
commanding position in Church and State; and it 
was this ever-present alternative which rendered 

1 Gregory the Great (Opera ora. vi. ep. 52.) concludes an epistle 
" ad Fratres in Angliam euntes " thus : " Data die decima Kal. Au£. 
imper ante Domino nostro Mauricio Tiberio piissimo Augxisto" &c. 

270 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V* 

them virtually independent of their nominal sove- 
reigns. Many reasons, however, inclined them to 
preserve their allegiance to the Byzantine court, or 
at least to refrain from transferring it to any other 
potentate. Old associations, and the fear of change, 
would have their weight in determining the course 
pursued; but the circumstances which chiefly in- 
fluenced the Popes in their decision were, in the first 
place, the distance of Constantinople from Rome, 
which was favourable to their independence ; and, 
in the next, the declining power and feeble character 
of the Emperors, which rendered them convenient 
masters to aspiring vassals. 

The evident intention of the Bishops of Rome, to 
play off the Langobards and the Byzantine court 
against each other, and to make their own career the 
resultant of these two opposing forces, seemed, for 
some time, likely to be entirely frustrated. The 
iconoclastic controversy, with all its horrible and 
ridiculous consequences, now began to agitate the 
Christian world, and gave rise to the bitterest 
hostility between the great capitals of the East and 
West, and their respective rulers. The Emperor 
Leo III., surnamed the Isaurian, disgusted at the 
idolatrous worship paid by his subjects to the images 
which filled the churches, issued, in a. d. 726, his 
famous decree for their destruction. It was then 
that the independence of thought and action to 
which the Roman bishops had accustomed themselves 
was clearly manifested. The Emperor communicated 
his pleasure respecting the destruction of the images 


to the Pope, and claimed from him the same un- 
answering obedience which he was accustomed to meet 
with from the Patriarch of Constantinople. 1 But 
Gregory II. , encouraged by the unanimous support of 
the Italians, who looked to him as the champion of 
their beloved idols, not only refused, in a letter full 
of personal abuse, to carry out the wishes of the 
Emperor, but fulminated a threat of excommunication 
against all who should dare to lay violent hands 
upon the images. 

After so public a renunciation of his allegiance, 
we might expect to see the Bishop of Eome avowedly 
siding with the Langobards, especially as they had 
forsaken the Arian heresy, and their King Luitprand 
himself had manifested a very high degree of venera- 
tion for St. Peter's chair. But the motives suggested 
above retained their force, and no such change 
took place ; on the contrary, we are told that when 
the Italians, " on hearing the wickedness of Leo, 
formed a plan of electing a new emperor and con- 
ducting him to Constantinople," the Pope induced 
them to forego their purpose and adhere to their 
former allegiance. 2 Nor is his policy on this occasion 

1 Paull. Diacon. vi. 49. 

2 Epist. Gregor. ii. ad Leon. (ap. Barron. Annal. Ecc. torn. ix. 
p. 70. Colon. Ag. 1609.) The two letters addressed by Gre- 
gory II. to the Emperor were written after 730 A. d. Vid. 
Gieseler's Kirchengesch. ii. 1 Abth. p. 3. Among other things 
he tells the emperor : Kcu to. jj.iKpa 7rctidia Karairai^ovm aov * 

yvp(i)(TOV £l£ TCIQ dtaTpi&ClQ TU)V (TTOl-^eiOJV KCU £17T£ * OTL tJO) StflL 

b Kara\vri]Q kcu dioj^rrjc tHju elkoviov ko.\ evOvq rag irivaKidag avr&v 

elg r)]v KE(j)a\iii> aov pi^ovai, &c. " Even the little children mock 

272 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

difficult to understand. The Langobards were too 
near, and the absorption of Rome into their empire 
would have been too complete to allow the Bishops 
of Rome free scope for their lofty schemes of ambition. 
As subjects of King Luitprand, they would have run 
the risk of sinking from the rank of virtual rulers 
of the Roman duchy, to that of mere metropolitan 
bishops. And the danger of this degradation grew 
every day more urgent. Gregory II. died in the 
midst of the perplexities arising from his critical 
position. But the same policy was pursued by his 
successor Gregory III. with so much determination, 
that Luitprand, who — whatever may have been his 
reverence for the spiritual character of his opponent, 
and liberal as he was towards the Holy See — could 

thee ! Wander through the elementary schools, and say ' I am 
the destroyer and the persecutor of the images/ and they will 
immediately throw their slates at thy head ! . . . Thou hast written, 
' Hosiah, King of the Jews (the holy Father means Hezekiah : 
2 Kings, xviii. 4.), after 800 years, brought the brazen ser- 
pent out of the Temple ; and I, after 800 years, have brought 
the images out of the Churches/ Truly Hosiah was thy brother, 
and had the same faith, and tyrannised over the priests of that 
time as thou dost now." (2 Chron. xxvi. 16—18.). Conf. Anasta- 
sius, de Vit. Rom. Pontiff. (Romas, 1718). Vit. XC. Gregorii II: 
" Cognita vero Impcratoris nequitia, omnis Italia consilium iniit, 
ut sibi eligerent Imperatorem, et Constantinopolim ducerent Sed 
compescuit tale consilium Pontifex, sperans conversionem Prin- 
cipis. • Sed ne desisterent ab amore vel fide Romani 

Imperii, admonebat." The ultramontane writers have cited this 
as an example in which an heretical emperor was deprived of a 
part of his dominions by the fiat of the Papal Chair. Thus Ba- 
ronius, ad an. 730, sec. 5. : " Sic dignum posteris idem Gregorius 
reliquit exemplum ne in Ecclesia Christi regnare sinerentur hae- 
retici Principes," &c. 


not overlook his intrigues, and was determined to be 
sole master in Italy, found it necessary to advance 
upon Rome with a hostile army. The scruples which 
the pious Langobard may have felt in violating 
St. Peter's patrimony, must have been greatly relieved 
by the very secular conduct of Gregory in respect 
to the king's rebellious vassals. Thrasamund, Duke 
of Spoleto, having incurred the displeasure of his 
sovereign, took refuge in Rome ; and when Luit- 
prand demanded that he should be given up, the 
Pope and the Patricians of the Romans united in 
giving a decided refusal. 1 The opposition to Luit- 
prand was further strengthened by the adhesion of 
Gottschalk, Duke of Benevento, who took up arms 
against his suzerain ; and in an engagement which 
took place soon after, between the king and his muti- 
nous vassals, Roman troops were seen fighting on the 
side of the rebels. 

Contrary to the hopes and expectations of Gregory, 
Luitprand was completely victorious ; and, justly 
irritated by the conduct of the Romans, to whom he 
had shown so much forbearance, immediately led 
his forces to the very gates of Rome, with the full 
intention of incorporating it with the rest of his 
Italian dominions 2 ; and thus, with all his foresight, 
Gregory had brought the rising structure of the 
papacy into the greatest danger, and appeared to be 
himself at the mercy of his enemies. 

1 Paull. Diac. vi. 65. 

2 Vit. Zacharire (Amistas. Vit. Pontif. torn. i. Vit. xcii.). 


274 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

In this extremity the holy father bethought him- 
self of the powerful and orthodox nation which had 
for so many ages been the faithful ally of the Catholic 
Church, and had lately been united in still closer 
bonds of reverence and amity to St. Peter's chair. 
In a.d. 739, Pope Gregory III. applied for aid against 
the Langobards "to his most excellent son, the Sub- 
king Carl." l 

That this application was made unwillingly, and 
with considerable misgivings about the consequences, 
may be inferred from the extremities to which Gregory 
submitted before he made it. 

His hesitation was owing, no doubt, in part to his 
instinctive dread of giving the papal chair a too 
powerful protector, who might easily become a 
master ; and partly to his knowledge of the sincere 
friendship which existed between his opponent Luit- 
prand and his desired ally. 2 Of all the circumstances 
which threatened to prevent the realisation of the 
papal dreams of temporal independence and spiritual 
domination, none were so greatly and so justly dreaded 
as an alliance between the Franks and Langobards; 
and we shall see that Gregory III. and his successors 
spared no pains, and shrunk from no means however 
questionable, to excite jealousy and hatred between 
the Franks and their Lombard kinsmen. 

TVhile the Pvomans were trembling within their 

1 Frecleg. Chron. Cont. ex. Annal. Mett. an. 741. "Domino 
excellentissimo filio Carolo sub regulo, Gregorins Papa." — Cod. 
Carol, i. fap. Du Chesne, Hist. Fr. Sc. torn. iii. p. 703.). 

2 De Vit. Gregor. III. (Anastasii Vit. Rom. Pontif., ed. Blan- 
cbini, Rom. 1718, torn, i.) 


hastily-repaired walls, and awaiting the decisive as- 
sault of the Langobards, Carl Martel was resting 
from the fatigues of his late campaigns in Burgundy; 
and he was still in that country when the papal 
envoys reached him. They brought with them a 
piteous epistle from Gregory, in which he complains 
with bitterness of the persecutions of his enemies, who, 
he says, had robbed the very church of St. Peter 
(which stood without the walls) of its candlesticks ; 
and taken away the pious offerings of the Frankish 
princes. 1 Carl received the communication of the 
afflicted Pontiff with the greatest reverence. The 
interests of the empire, and more especially of his 
own family, Avere too intimately connected with the 
existence and honour of the Bishops of Rome, to 
allow of his feeling indifferent to what was passing 
in Italy; and there is no reason to doubt that he 
entertained the highest veneration for the Head of 
the Church. Yet this first embassy seems to have 
justified the fears rather than the hopes of Gregory. 2 
The incessant exertions which Carl's enemies com- 
pelled him to make for the maintenance of his 
authority would long ago have destroyed a man 
of ordinary energy and endurance, and were begin- 
ning to tell even upon his iron frame. He was 
aware that the new order of things, of which he was 
the principal author, depended for its continuance 

1 Cod. Carol. Ep. i. 

2 "0 qaam insanabilis dolor pro his exprobrationibus in nostro 
retinetur pectore dum tales et tantifilii saam spiritualem matiem, 
sanctum Dei Ecclesiam . . non conantur defcndere /" 

t 2 

276 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

and consolidation solely upon his presence and watch- 
fulness. So far from being in a condition to lead his 
forces to a distant country, and to make enemies of 
brave and powerful friends, it was not long since he 
had sought the assistance of the Langobards them- 
selves ; and he knew not how soon he might stand 
in need of it again. He therefore contented himself 
with opening friendly negotiations with Luitprand, 
who excused himself to Carl, and agreed to spare the 
Papal territory on condition that the Romans should 
cease to interfere between himself and his rebellious 
subjects. The exact terms of the agreement made 
between Gregory and Luitprand, by the mediation of 
Carl Martel, are of the less moment, as they were 
observed by neither part} 7 . In a. d. 740 the Lango- 
bards again appeared in arms before the gates of 
Rome ; and the Pope was once more a suppliant at the 
Frankish court. In the letter which Carl Martel re- 
ceived on this occasion, Gregory bitterly complains 
that no effectual aid had been as yet afforded him ; that 
more attention had been paid to the " lying " reports of 
the Lombard king than to his own statements, and he 
earnestly implores his " most Christian son " not to 
prefer the friendship of Luitprand to the love of the 
Prince of the Apostles. 1 It is evident from the whole 

1 Cod. Carol. Epist. i., ii. It seems but fair to the memory of 
Luitprand to quote the words of the historian of the Langobards 
respecting him. " (Luitprand) was a man of great wisdom, wise 
in council, God-fearing, and a friend of peace. He was powerful 
in battle, merciful towards sinners, chaste and temperate, watchful 
in prayer, generous to the poor, unacquainted indeed with the 


tenor of this second epistle, that the Frankish mayor 
had not altered his conduct towards the King of the 
Lombards, in consequence of Gregory's charges and 
complaints ; but had trusted rather to his own know- 
ledge of his friend than to the invectives of the ter- 
rified and angry Pope. 

To <nve additional weight to his written remon- 
strances and entreaties, Gregory sent the bishop 
Anastasius and the presbyter Sergius to Carl Martel, 
charged with more secret and important instructions, 
which he scrupled to commit to writing. The nature 
of their communications may be gathered from the 
symbolical actions by which they were accompanied. 
The envoys brought with them the keys of St. Peter's 
sepulchre, which they offered to Carl, on whom they 
were also empowered to confer the title and dignity 
of Roman Patricius. 1 By the former step — the offer 
of the keys (an honour never before conferred upon 
a Frankish ruler) — Gregory expressed his desire to 
constitute the powerful mayor Protector of the Holy 
See ; and by conferring the rank of Roman Patricius 
without, as seems probable, the sanction of the Greek 
Emperor, he in effect withdrew his allegiance from 
the latter, and acknowledged Carl Martel as liege 
lord of the Roman duchy and people. It was in this 
lioht that the whole transaction was regarded at the 

sciences, but worthy of being considered equal to the philosophers, 

a father of his people and a reformer^of the laws.' 7 — Paull. Diacon. 

Hist. Langob. lib. vi. cap. 58. 

1 Fred^g. Chron. Cont. ex. (Bouq. torn. ii.). Annal. Mett. an. 

741. also mention St. Peter's chains (" preciosa vincula") among 

the offerings. 

t 3 

278 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V 

time, for we read in the chronicle of Moissiac, 
written in the beginning of the ninth century, that 
the letter of the Pope was accompanied by " a de- 
cree of the Roman Principes ;" and that the Roman 
people, having thrown off the rule of the Greek 
Emperor, desired to place themselves under the pro- 
tection of the aforesaid prince, and his invincible 
clemency." 1 

Carl Martel received the ambassadors with the 
distinguished honour due to the dignity of the sender, 
and the importance of their mission ; and willingly 
accepted at their hands the significant offerings 
they brought. When they were prepared to return, 
he loaded them with costly presents, and ordered 
Grimo, the Abbot of Corbey, and Sigebert, a monk 
of St. Denis, to accompany them to Rome, and bear 
his answer to Pope Gregory. Rome was once more 
delivered from destruction by the intervention of 
Carl, and his influence with Luitprand. 

And thus were the last days of the great Prankish 
hero and Gregory III. employed in marking out a 
line of policy respecting each other, and the great 
temporal and spiritual interests committed to them, 
which, being zealously followed up by their succes- 
sors, led in the sequel to the most important and 
brilliant results. They both died nearly at the same 
time, in the same year (a.d. 741) in which the events 
above described took place. The restless activity of 
Carl Martel had prematurely worn him out. Conscious 

1 Chron. Moissiac. an. 741 (ap. Germ. Mon. i. p. 292.). 


of the rapid decline of his powers, he began to set 
his house in order ; and he had scarcely time to por- 
tion out his vast empire among his sons, and to make 
his peace with heaven in the church of the patron 
saint, when he was seized by a fever in his palace at 
Chiersy, on the Oise ; where he died on the 15th (or 
21st) of October, a.d. 741, at the early age of fifty. 
He was buried in the church of St. Denis. 1 

Carl Martel may be reckoned in the number of 
those great men who have been deprived of more 
than half the glory due to them, " because they want 
the sacred poet." Deeds which, in the full light of 
history, would have appeared sufficient to make a 
dozen warriors immortal, are despatched by the 
Frankish chroniclers in a few dry words. His great- 
ness, indeed, shines forth even from their meagre 
notices ; but we feel, as we read them, that had a Caesar 
or a Livy unfolded his character and described his 
exploits, — instead of a poor pedantic monk like Frede- 
gar, — a rival might be found for the Ccesars, the 
Scipios, and the Hannibals. 

We have seen that he inherited little from his 
father but the hereditary vigour of his race. He 
began life as the prisoner of an envious stepmother. 
When he escaped from his prison at Cologne, he was 
surrounded by powerful enemies ; nor could he con- 
sider himself safe until, with a force which voluntarily 
joined his standard, he had defeated three armies 
larger than his own. His subsequent career was in 

1 Frecleu. Chron. Cunt. ex. 

T 4 

280 THE FRANKS. [Chai*. V. 

accordance with the deeds of his early life. Every 
step in his onward progress was the result of a con- 
test. He fought his way to the seat of his mighty 
father. He defeated the Neustrians, and compelled 
them to receive a sovereign at his hands. He at- 
tacked and defeated, in rapid succession, the warlike 
nations of the Frisians and the Saxons ; he refixed 
the Frankish yoke more firmly upon the necks of the 
Swabians, the Bavarians, the Aquitanians, and Gas- 
cons ; and, above all, he stemmed the mighty tide of 
Moslemism which threatened to engulf the world. 

Nor was it with external enemies alone that he 
had to contend. To the last days of his active life 
he was engaged in quelling the endless seditions of 
the great seigniors, who were as impatient of con- 
trol from above as of opposition from below. 

His mighty deeds are recorded ; but of the manner 
in which he set about them; of the resources, internal 
and external, mental and physical, by which he was 
enabled to perforin them ; of his personal character 
and habits ; of his usual dwelling-place ; of his friends 
and servants, his occupations, tastes, and habits, we 
are left in the profoundest ignorance. 

The great and important results of his activity 
were the predominance of the German element in the 
Frankish empire, the preservation of Europe from 
Mohammedanism, and the union of the principal 
German tribes into one powerful State. And all 
these mighty objects he effected, as far as we are 
able to judge, chiefly, though not entirely, by the 
sword. lie beat down everything which barred his 


course ; lie crushed all those who dared to oppose 
him; he coerced the stubbornness of the indepen- 
dent German tribes, and welded them together by 
terrific and repeated blows. Our prevailing idea of 
him, therefore, is that of force — irresistible energy ; 
and his popular surname of Martel, or the Hammer, 
appears a particularly happy one. 1 

The task which he performed was in many respects 
similar to that of Clovis at an earlier period ; but 
it is not difficult to see that it was performed in a 
very different spirit. " He is not," says Guizot, " an 
ordinary usurper. He is the chief of a new people* 
which has not renounced its ancient manners, and 
which holds more closely to Germany than to Gaul.'' 2 
Though superior to Clovis, even as a warrior, we have 
no sufficient reason to accuse Carl Martel of being 
either treacherous or cruel. The incessant wars in 
which he was unavoidably engaged, necessarily imply 
a great amount of confusion in the State, and of sacri- 
fice and suffering on the part of the people. And we 
have sufficient evidence of a direct nature, to show 
that the usual effects of long-continued wars were 
severely felt in the Frankish empire. The great mass 
of the people is seldom honoured by the notice of the 
Chroniclers, and never except in their relation to those 

1 Ajmcd. Xantenses (Monum. Germ., ii. p. 221.): " Vir bel- 
licosus, dux invictus, iramo victoriosissimus, qui patrios limites 
transiliens paternasque victorias suis nobiliter exaugens, liones- 
tissimos triumphos de ducibus ac regibus, de populis ac barbaris 
nationibus reportavit.' 7 

2 Guizot, Essais, ii. 

282 THE FRANKS. [Chap. V. 

for whom they toil and bleed ; and we might have 
been left in blissful ignorance of the cost of Carl 
Martel's brilliant deeds, had not the coffers of the 
Church been heavily mulcted to defray it. 

Ecclesiastical property, which, at the time we 
speak of, comprised a large proportion of the land, 
was exempted, by various immunities and privileges, 
from bearing its due share of the public burdens. 
Carl Martel, therefore, to whom a large and con- 
stant supply of money was indispensable, was ac- 
customed to make a portion of the wealth of the 
Church available to the wants of the State. This 
he effected by bestowing bishoprics and rich bene- 
fices on his personal friends and trustiest followers, 
without much regard to their fitness for the clerical 
office. 1 It was for this offence that, notwith- 
standing the support he gave to Boniface and his 
brother missionaries, and the number of churches 
which he founded and endowed, he was held up by 
ecclesiastical writers of a later age as a destroyer of 
monasteries, " who converted the property of the 
Church to his own use," and on that account died 
"a fearful death." 2 More than a hundred years 

1 Ex Vita S. Rigoberti (Bouquet, iii. p. 658.) : "Et quidem 
aliis similiter fecit (Carl had deprived Rigobert of bis bishopric for 
opposing him) et eis qui suis partibus faverunt, dedit. De hoc 
etenim non Rege sed Tyranno, ita legitur ad locum in Annal. Di- 
versorum Regum: ' Iste Carlus omnibus audacior Episcopatus 
Regni Francorum laicis hominibus et Comitibus primus dedit, ita 
ut Episcopis nihil potestatis in rebus Ecclesiarum permitteret? " 

2 This passage (which is without doubt an interpolation) is 
found in the Epistola Bonifacii, 72 ad Ethelbaldum Regem 


after Carl's decease (in a. d. 858) Louis, the Ger- 
man, was reminded, by a synod held at Chiersy, 
of the sins committed by his great ancestor against 
the Church. " Prince Carl," said the assembled 
fathers to the king, " the father of Pepin, who was 
the first among the Frankish kings and princes to 
alienate and distribute the goods of the Church, was 
solely on that account eternally damned. " They 
then proceeded to relate the well-known " Visio 
S. Eucherii," a forgery of Archbishop Hincmar, 
according to which, Eucherius, bishop of Orleans, 
having been transported to the other Avorld in a 
trance, beheld Carl Martel suffering the pains of 
hell. 1 On his inquiring, of the angel who accom- 
panied him, the reason of what he saw, he was told 
that the mighty major-domus was suffering the 
penalty of having seized and distributed the property 
of the Church. The astonished bishop related what 
had befallen him to Boniface, and Fulrad the abbot 
of St. Denis, and repaired in their company to the 
sepulchre of Carl Martel. On opening the coffin, 
which was charred on the inside and contained no 
corpse, a dragon rushed out and made its escape. 2 

(ed. Wurdtwein, Mayence, 1789, p. 189-, in which Ethelbald is 
reminded of the melancholy fate of the Kings Ceolred and 
Osred, who died an early death for having destroyed monasteries. 
William of Malmesbury has adopted the interpolation of which 
neither of the above-mentioned editors could find a trace in the 
most ancient MSS. Vid. Roth, Beneficialwesen, p. 467. 

1 This story is given at full length in the Einhardi Fuldenses 
Annal. ad an. 738. (Monumenta Germanic, torn. i.). 

2 Vita Eucherii. (Bouq. iii. p. 656.). Unfortunately for the ere- 

2S4 THE FRANKS. [Cuap. V. 

Against these and other harsh judgments of the 
great hero's character (none of which are earlier than 
the ninth century), the acrimonious nature of which 
betrays their source, we may set the respect of his 
contemporaries, the friendship of Boniface 1 and Pope 
Gregory, and the fact that he endowed and en- 
riched a great number of religious houses, and was 
frequently applied to by the Pope to defend St. Peter's 
chair. That his own necessities, and the excessive 
wealth and troublesome privileges of the Church, 
induced him to take measures which operated in- 
juriously on the character of the clergy, cannot be 
denied ; but he proved in many ways that he acted in 
no hostile spirit to religion or its ministers, but under 
the pressure of circumstances which he could not 
control. If he used a portion of the revenues of the 
Church to pay and equip his soldiers, he led those 
soldiers against the bitterest enemies of Christendom, 
the heathen and the Moslem. His lot was cast in 
the battle-field, but the part which he there per- 
formed was useful as well as brilliant. Though 
evidently a warrior of the highest class — great in the 
council as in the field — he was not that degraded 
being, a mere warrior. He never seems to have 
sought war for its own sake, or to have delighted in 

dibility of the romantic story, the Vit. Euchar. shows that the 
dreaming prelate died three years before Carl Martel, as is proved 
by Roth (Btmeficialwesen, p. 327.). 

1 Ex Vita Bonijacii ab Othlone 3Ionac/w. (Bouq. iii. p. 667.) : 
" Hunc (Carlomannum) sanctus Bonif. adieus . . . poposcit ut 
Ch. Religionis culturam quam pater ejus in pro??iptissi?no animo 
eepit et excoluit" et seq. 


bloodshed. He was willing to negotiate with an 
enemy, even when he felt himself the stronger ; and 
was placable and generous to his bitterest foes. The 
aid he afforded to Boniface and others in their efforts 
to convert the heathen, and the sympathy he showed 
in their success, sufficiently prove that he was not 
indifferent to religion ; and that he could appreciate, 
not only the brave exploits of the gallant soldier, but 
the self-sacrificing labours of the zealous missionary. 

286 THE PRANKS. [Chap. VI. 


A.D. 741 — 768. 

Carl Martel left two sons, Carloman and Pepin, by 
his first wife of whom nothing is known, and a third, 
Gripho, by the captive Bavarian princess Sunehild, 
who is sometimes called his second wife and some- 
times his concubine. In the first partition of his 
dominions, which was made known before his death, 
he apportioned Austrasia, Suabia (Alemannia), and 
Thuringia, the German provinces, to his eldest son, 
Carloman ; Neustria, Burgundy, and Provence, to 
Pepin, the chief inheritor of his glory. In this 
arrangement the son of Sunehild was wisely passed 
over; but the entreaties of his beautiful spouse in- 
duced Carl, at the very end of his life, to set apart a 
portion from each of the two kingdoms above men- 
tioned for Gripho ; an unfortunate step, which only 
brought destruction on him w r ho received the fatal 


The mischievous effects of the new partition 


showed themselves immediately. The subjects of 
Gripho, among whom alone he could look for sym- 
pathy and support, were discontented at being 
arbitrarily separated from the rest of the empire ; 
and the ill-feeling of the seigniors and people in all 
parts of the country appears to have been enhanced 
by the prejudice existing against Sunehild, both as 
a foreigner and on account of the ^reat influence she 
exercised over the heart of Carl. So strong, indeed, 
was the feeling of the Franks upon the subject, that 
we may fairly doubt whether Carloman and Pepin 
themselves, had they been so inclined, would have 
been able to secure to their brother the possession of 
the territory allotted to him. 

Whatever sentiments the two eldest brothers pre- 
viously entertained towards Gripho, they were soon 
rendered openly hostile by the flight of their sister Hil- 
trude to the court of Bavaria, and her unauthorised 
marriage with Odilo, the duke of that country. 1 Sune- 
hild and Gripho, who were naturally looked upon as 
the instigators of this unwelcome alliance, shut them- 
selves up in the fortress of Laon ; but being entirely 
without resources, they yielded up the place and 
themselves as soon as Carloman and Pepin appeared 
with an army before its walls. The favourite wife of 
the mighty Carl Martel was sent into a nunnery at 
Chelles, and Gripho was imprisoned in the castle of 
Neufchateau, in the forest of Ardennes. 2 

1 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. cxi. ad an. 742. 

2 Eginhard. Annal. an. 741. 

2S8 THE FRANKS. [Ciiap. VL 

The great importance which the youthful rulers 
attached to the flight of Gripho and his mother, and 
the clandestine marriage of Hiltrude, was owing to 
their knowledge of the troubled state of Bavaria, 
where a rebellion broke out soon afterwards. Carlo- 
man and Pepin, like their forefathers, were called 
upon, at the very commencement of their reign, to show 
themselves worthy of the sceptre they had inherited. 
No sooner was the heavy hand of Carl Martel with- 
drawn from their necks, than Suabians, Bavarians, 
and Aquitanians once more flew to arms for the 
recovery of their independence. Nor can we con- 
demn the proceedings of these warlike tribes as un- 
seasonable, or altogether rash and hopeless. They 
had no reason to suppose that, contrary to the usual 
course of nature, the Carlovingian race would go on 
for ever producing giants like the two first Pepins 
and Carl Martel ; and they knew that it needed a 
giant's grasp to hold the mighty empire of the Franks 
together. But the spirit of their father lived in both 
his sons, as their enemies had soon good reason to 
know ; and any natural hopes the revolted nations 
may have founded on family dissensions were dispelled 
by the captivity of Gripho, and the lasting harmony 
which existed between Carloman and Pepin. 

Having placed a Merovingian named Childeric on 
the throne — which their father for some time before 
his death had left unoccupied, — the young princes 
marched an army towards Aquitaine ; for Hunold the 
son of Eudo,the sworn vassal of Carl Martel, had mani- 
fested his rebellious intentions by throwing Lantfred, 


the Frankish ambassador, into prison. Crossing the 
Loire, they devastated Aquitania as far as Bourges ; 
and were on the point of overrunning the whole 
country, when the intelligence of the still more 
serious rebellion of the Suabians compelled them sud- 
denly to break off their campaign in the south, and 
return to the heart of their dominions. 1 Preparations 
of unusual magnitude had been made for the war 
by the Dukes of Suabia and Bavaria, who had 
invited the Saxon and Sclavonian tribes to make com- 
mon cause against the Franks. The sudden return 
of the Frankish army, however, frustrated their half- 
completed plans. In the autumn of the same year, 
Carloman crossed the Rhine, fell upon the Suabian 
Duke Theobald before his Bavarian allies were ready 
to take the field, and compelled him to renew his 
oath of allegiance, and to give hostages for its 

In the meantime, Odilo, Duke of Bavaria, the hus- 
band of the fugitive Princess Hiltrude, was doing all 
in his power to strengthen himself against the ex- 
pected attack of the Franks 2 , and was evidently acting 
in concert with Duke Hunold of Aquitaine. The 
defeat of the Suabians was a heavy blow to his hopes ; 
but he had gone too far to recede, and having united 
a body of Saxons and Sclavonian mercenaries with 
his own subjects, he took up a position on the farther 

1 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. cxi., cxii. 

2 Annal. Metten. an. 743. 


290 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

side of the river Lech, and stockaded the banks to 
prevent the enemy from crossing. The Franks came 
up soon afterwards, but found the Bavarians so 
strongly entrenched, that they lay fifteen days on the 
opposite bank without attempting anything. After 
a diligent search, however, they discovered a ford by 
which they crossed the river during the night, and, 
falling on the unsuspecting enemy, put them to 
flight, and drove them with great slaughter across 
the river Inn. 

The Frankish princes are said to have remained 
for fifty-two days in the enemies' country ; but their 
expedition partook more of the nature of a foray than 
a conquest, and left the Bavarians in nearly the same 
condition of semi-independence in which it had found 
them. The activity of the revolted tribes rendered 
it dangerous for Carloman and Pepin to lead their 
forces too far in any one direction. As Hunold had 
been saved by the revolt of the Suabians, so Odilo 
was now relieved from the presence of the Franks by 
diversions made in his favour in two other quarters; 
by the Saxons, who had fallen upon Thuringia; and 
by Hunold, who, emboldened by impunity and the 
absence of the Franks, had crossed the Loire and 
was devastating the land as far as Chartres. The 
Saxons claimed the first attention of the Frankish 
leaders, since the latter dared not march towards the 
south with so dangerous an enemy in their rear. Carlo- 
man is said to have defeated the Saxon army, which 
consisted in all probability of undisciplined marauders, 
in two great battles, and to have carried off one of 


their leaders, named Theoderic, into Australia. 1 Pepin 
was, in the meantime, engaged with the Suabians un- 
der Theobald, whom he soon reduced to obedience. 
Having thus, for the time, secured their rear, the 
brother- warriors marched (in a.d. 745), with united 
forces, against Hunold, who, conscious of his utter 
inability to resist their undivided power, laid down 
his arms without a contest, consented to give hos- 
tages, and to renew his brittle oaths of fealty. Dis- 
gusted with his ill success, he soon afterwards re- 
signed the government in favour of his son Waifar, 
and retired into the monastery of St. Philibert, in 
the island of Rhe, on the coast of Aquitaine. 

We cannot fairly number Hunold among the 
princes of Europe who have resigned their crowns 
from a real and settled conviction of the worth- 
lessness of all but spiritual goods and honours. 
The precise motives which actuated him can only be 
guessed at ; but the very last explanation of his con- 
duct to which we should have recourse is that he 
sought in retirement a more undisturbed communion 
with God. The same chronicles which record his 
abdication inform us, that in order to secure the 
undisputed succession of the vacant throne to his 
son, he lured his own brother " by false oaths" from 
Poitiers, and, after putting out his eyes, kept him in 
strict confinement. Such was his preparation for the 
monastic life ! 2 

1 Annal. Metten. an. 743. Annal. Tilian. an. 743. Reginon. 

2 Fred. Chron. Cont. cxiv. Annal. Mett. an. 744. 

u 2 

292 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

Though it is not easy to discover in what respect 
the Suabians were more in fault in the war just men- 
tioned than the other revolted nations, it is evident 
that they incurred the special resentment of their 
Frankish conquerors. All had broken their alle- 
giance, and had sought to regain by force the inde- 
pendence of which they had been forcibly deprived. 
Yet while the Bavarians and Aquitanians were 
merely compelled to renew their engagements on 
honourable terms, the treatment of the Suabians has 
left an indelible blot on the character of Carloman. 

This brave and once powerful people had retired, 
after their defeat by Pepin, into the fastnesses of the 
Alps, but were soon compelled to make their sub- 
mission, and to resume their former allegiance. In 
a. d. 746, however, they appear to have meditated a 
new revolt, and were accused of having incited the 
Bavarians to try once more the fortune of war. 
Rendered furious by the seemingly interminable 
nature of the contest, Carloman appears to have 
thought himself justified in repaying faithlessness 
by treachery of a far more heinous nature l ; and 
this is the only shadow of an excuse which can be 
offered for his conduct. Having led his army to 
Cannstadt in a. d. 746, he ordered Theobald, the 
Suabian duke, to join him with all his forces, in 
obedience to the military ban. Theobald obeyed 

without suspicion, supposing that he should be em- 
ployed, in conjunction with the rest of Carloman's 

1 Fred. Chron. Cont. cxv. 


forces, against some common enemy. "And there," 
says the chronicler of Metz, " a great prodigy took 
place, that one army seized and bound another 
without any of the perils of war ! " l No sooner 
had the two armies met together in an apparently 
friendly manner, than Carloman ordered his Franks 
to surround the Alemannians (Suabians), and to 
disarm and bind them. He then instituted an 
inquiry respecting the aid afforded the Bavarians ; 
and, having seized those chiefs who had assisted 
Odilo " against the invincible princes, Carloman and 
Pepin, he mercifully corrected each according to his 
deserts." 2 Lanfried II. received the vacant throne 
of Theobald, who, in all probability, was one of those 
Avho lost their lives by Carloman's merciful correction. 
In the following year, the connection between the 
Carlovingian family and the Roman Church, which 
had grown continually closer, w r as still farther 
strengthened by the voluntary abdication of Carlo- 
man, and his admission into the monastic order. 
The reasons which induced this mighty prince and 
successful warrior to take so singular a step are 
quite unknown. 3 Remorse for his recent treachery, 

1 Annal. Metten. an. 746. : " Fuitque ibi magnum miraculunv 
quod unus exercitus alium comprehendit atque ligavit absque ullo 
discrimine belli." 

2 " Misericord iter correxit." 

3 Vit. S. Zacharise. (Vit. xciii. Anastasius, torn, i.) Ein- 
hardi Vit. Carol. Mag. cap. ii. : " Incertum quibus de causis, 
tamen videtur quod amore conversationis contemplative succen- 

sus " Fredeg. Chron. Cont. cxvi. Citron. Moissiac. : 

"Divino amore et desiderio caslestis patriae compunctus sponte 

u 3 

294 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

— disgust at the bloodshed he had caused and wit- 
nessed, — the sense of inferiority to his brother Pe- 
pin, and doubts as to the continuance of fraternal har- 
mony, — a natural tendency to religious contemplation 
increased by the influence of Boniface, whose earnest 
faith and spotless life could not but make a deep 
impression upon all who knew him ; — these and other 
causes will occur to the mind of every one as being, 
singly or in different combinations, adequate to the 
result. Yet we can but guess at motives which were 
unknown to the generations immediately succeeding 
him, and which he himself perhaps would have found 
it difficult to define. 

With the full concurrence of his brother Pepin, 
whose appetite for worldly honours was by no means 
sated, Carloman set out for Pome with a numerous 
retinue of the chief men in his kingdom, taking 
with him magnificent presents for the Pope. He 
was received by Zachary with great distinction ; and 
by his advice Carloman vowed obedience to the rules 
of St. Benedict before Optatus, the Abbot of Monte 
Casino, and founded a monastery to St. Sylvester on 
the classic heights of Mount Soracte. But he was 
far too much in earnest in his desire of solitude to 
find the neighbourhood of Rome a suitable or agree- 
able residence. The newly founded monastery was 
soon thronged with curious visitors, eager to behold 
the princely monk who had given up all to follow 

regnum reliquit.'' Annal. Metten. an. 747. contain a strange 
story of Carloman's humility and penitence. Pie calls himself 
" peccatorem et homicidam." 


Christ. He therefore abandoned Mount Soracte, and, 
concealing as far as possible his name and rank, 
enrolled himself among the Benedictine monks of 
Monte Casino. 

As no stipulation had been made in favour of Carlo- 
man's son Drogo, Pepin now became sole ruler of 
the whole Frankish empire. It is a no less singular 
than pleasing fact — that one of the very first uses 
which Pepin made of his undivided authority was to 
release his brother Gripho from his long imprison- 
ment ; singular, because it seems to imply that Carlo- 
man, whose susceptibility to religious influences 
cannot be doubted, was the only obstacle to this act 
of generosity and mercy. It is indeed open to us 
to suppose that Carloman foresaw more clearly than 
his brother the injurious consequences of Gripho's 
restoration to freedom; for the policy of this step was 
certainly more questionable than its generosit}^. The 
liberated prince thought more of what was withheld 
than of what was granted, and had never ceased to 
consider himself entitled to an equal share of the 
dominions of his father. In A. d. 748, not long after 
his release, while Pepin was holding a council of the 
bishops and seigniors at Diiren, Gripho was forming 
a party among the younger men to support his pre- 
tensions to the throne. In company of some of these 
he tied to the Saxons, who were always ready to make 
common cause against the hated Franks. 1 Pepin, well 

1 Annal. Metten. an. 748. Annal. Nazar. eod. an. Annal. 
Petav. eod. an. Fred. Chron. Cont. cxvii. 

u 4 

296 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

aware of the extremely inflammable materials by 
which his frontiers were surrounded, and dreading 
a renewal of the conflagration he had so lately 
quenched in blood, immediately took the field ; 
march in 2: through Thurinsna, he attacked and defeated 
the Nordosquavi, a Saxon tribe who lived on the 
river Wipper, between the Bode and Saale. The 
Saxon leader Theoderic was taken prisoner for the 
third time, and a considerable number of the cap- 
tives taken on this occasion were compelled to receive 
Christian baptism, according to the usual policy of 

that age. 

After fruitless negotiations between the brothers, 
Gripho endeavoured to make a stand at the river 
Oker 1 ; failing in this, he fled to the Bavarians, among 
whom an enemy of Pepin was sure to find a welcome. 
After devastating the Saxon territory for forty days, 
and reimposing the tribute formerly exacted by 
Clotaire, Pepin directed his march towards Bavaria, 
in pursuit of his brother. Odilo, the former duke 
of this country, was now dead, and had been 
succeeded by his son Tassilo, who ruled under 
the influence of the Frankish Princess Hiltrude. 
These inveterate enemies of Pepin were also joined 
by a mighty Bavarian chief, called Suitger, and 
the Suabian duke, Lanfried II. If we understand 
rightly a passage in the annals of Metz, Gripho 
succeeded in depriving Tassilo and his mother of 
the reins of Government and making himself master 

In Brunswick. 


of Bavaria. Gripho 1 , Suitger, and Lanfried united 
their forces, but not venturing to await the at- 
tack of the Franks upon the Lech, as Odilo had 
done on a former occasion, they retreated at once 
behind the Inn, which had already proved so ef- 
fectual a bulwark. Pepin, however, no longer em- 
barrassed by a variety of enemies, determined to 
bring the matter to a final decision, and was already 
making preparations to cross the Inn, when the 
leaders of the allied army, convinced of the futility 
of braving the superior force of the Franks, volun- 
tarily surrendered themselves prisoners of war. The 
leniency with which the Bavarians were treated 
seems to imply that favourable terms of surrender 
had been granted, at any rate, to them. Tassilo 
received back his duchy, for which he had to swear 
fealty to the Frankish ruler ; while Alemannia was 
finally incorporated with the Frankish dominions. 
The fate of Lanfried II. , the last of the Suabian 
dukes, is not known ; but the character and general 
policy of Pepin are a guarantee that he was not 
treated with unnecessary harshness. Gripho was once 
more indebted to his brother for life and liberty, and 
not only received a full pardon, but was endowed 
with twelve counties and the town of Mans — a 
fortune splendid enough to have satisfied the desires 
of any one who had not dreamed too much of 
independence and royal authority. 2 

The ill success which attended the efforts of Gripho, 

1 Annal. Metten. : " Quern (Tassilonem) de principatu Grippo 
abegit, et sibi ipse Baioarios subjugavit." 

2 Annal. Metten. ?n 749. Annal. Einhard. an. 7-18. 

298 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

— whose claims but a few years before would have 
rallied thousands of malcontents round his standard, — 
and the rapid and easy suppression of the Suabian 
and Bavarian revolts, afford us evidence that the 
once bitter opposition of the seigniors, both lay and 
clerical, to the establishment of the Carlovingian 
throne, was finally overcome ; and that Pepin pos- 
sessed a degree of settled authority which neither 
his father nor his grandfather had enjoyed. Many 
circumstances contributed to this superiority in the 
position of Pepin, even as compared with his im- 
mediate predecessor. He had, in the first place, the 
great advantage of a quiet and undisputed succession 
to his father's dignities. His authority could not be 
regarded merely as that of a great officer of the crown 
or a successful warrior, but had already acquired an 
hereditary character, as founded on the mighty deeds 
of a series of noble ancestors : in the second place, 
the military constitution of the country had acquired 
consistency in the long and successful wars of Carl 
Martel. This constitution, as we shall show, was 
intimately connected with the seignior ship ^ now fully 
developed, and the system of beneftcia, or non- 
hereditary grants, by which the Frankish rulers 
endeavoured to secure the services of the powerful 
chieftains and their dependent followers ; and lastly, 
we must attribute much of the tranquillity enjoyed 
by Pepin to the vigour with which Carl Martel chas- 
tised his unruly subjects, and forced the boldest to suc- 
cumb to the valour and fortune of his glorious race. 
And hence it was that Pepin found both strength 


and leisure to regulate by wise laws, the dominions 
which his father had only been able to overawe by 
his upraised sword. In this work he was ably 
seconded by Boniface, whose counsel he sought on 
all important occasions, and to whom, in turn, he 
gave material aid in the grand objects of the noble 
martyr's life — the extension of the Christian faith, 
and the regulation of the visible Church according to 
the Roman ritual. 

It was during the mayoralty of Pepin, and not, 
as is generally assumed, in that of Carl Martel, that 
the famous and important act of " Secularisation " 
took place, which will again be spoken of in the 
chapter on the Church. 1 The practice into which 
Carl Martel had been driven by his necessities, of 
bestowing ecclesiastical benefices on laymen who 
assumed the priesthood with purely secular views, 
was inconsistent with the peace and good order, and 
inimical to all the higher interests, of the Christian 
Church. As an exceptional state of things, however, 
even rigid disciplinarians and pious churchmen like 
Boniface had thought it expedient to yield a tacit 
assent to the employment of Church revenues for 
military purposes. But when, on the one hand, the 
consequences of these irregular and violent expedients 
had become, with the lapse of time, more clearly 
evident ; and, on the other, a stricter discipline, and 
a more religious and ecclesiastical spirit had been 
diffused through the great body of the clergy by the 

1 Roth's Beneficialvvesen, p. 336. 

300 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

labours of Boniface and his school, it became more 
and more repugnant to the feelings of all true friends 
of the Church to see its highest offices filled by 
masquerading laymen, who had nothing of the priest 
about them but the name and dress. In this re- 
pugnance we have every reason to believe that both 
Carloman and Pepin largely shared ; and yet, though 
not engaged in an internecine struggle like their 
father, they carried on expensive wars, and needed 
large supplies of land and money. It was not 
therefore to be expected that they should ease the 
Church from all participation in the public burdens, 
especially at a time when it had absorbed a very 
large proportion of the national wealth. Under 
these circumstances, a compromise was effected by 
the influence of Boniface at the Synod of Lestines. 1 
In this important council the assembled bishops 
consented, in consideration of the urgent necessities 
of the State, to make a voluntary surrender of a 
portion of the funds of the Church ; with the stipu- 
lation that the civil rulers should, on their part, 
abstain for the future from all arbitrary interference 
with its discipline and property. 

Preparatory to the meeting of the Synod at 
Lestines, Carloman and Pepin summoned, on the 21st 
of April, a. d. 742 (at Saltz ?), a council of the great 
seigniors, temporal and spiritual, to consider how 
the laws of God and of the Church, which had fallen 

1 Lestines, in the neighbourhood of Cambrai ; or, as some writers 
think, Et tines, near Binche, in Hainault. 


into confusion and ruin under former rulers, might 
be best restored. " For more than eighty years," 
says Boniface, in his epistle to the Pope on this 
occasion 1 , " the Franks have neither held a synod, nor 
appointed an archbishop, nor enacted or renewed 
their canons ; but most of the bishoprics are given to 
rapacious laymen or dissolute and avaricious priests 
for their own use ; and though some of these profess 
to be chaste, yet they are either drunkards or fol- 
lowers of the chase ; or they go armed into battle, 
and shed with their own hands the blood of Christians 
as well as heathens ! " Before this first assembly? 
which was a council of state, and not an ecclesiastical 
synod, Boniface as papal legate brought forward his 
measures for the reform of the Church and the settle- 
ment of its relations to the State. Through the 
influence of Carloman many of these propositions 
received the sanction of the council, and they must 
be regarded as concessions made by the State to the 
Church. It was enacted that annual synods should 
be held ; that the property of which the churches 
and monasteries had been violently deprived should 
be restored ; that the counts and bishops in their 
respective jurisdictions should be directed to put 
down all heathen practices (to which the people in 
some parts of the country were still addicted); that 
the rules of St. Benedict should be re-introduced 
into the monasteries ; and that the clergy should be 

1 Bonifac. Epist. 132. (ed. Wiirdtwein, ep. 51.) ad Zach?,r. (an. 

302 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

prohibited from war and the chase, from sexual 
intercourse, and the use of military accoutrements. 

In the following year(743), the Synod of Lestines 
itself was summoned for the final settlement of the 
points just mentioned ; and it was here that the terms 
on which the consent of Carloman and Pepin to the 
proposition of Boniface had been given, were made 
public. " We also enact," runs the decree of these 
princes, " by the counsel of God's servants, and of 
the Christian people, that, in consideration of impend- 
ing wars and the persecutions to which we are sub- 
ject from surrounding nations, Ave be allowed, by the 
indulgence of God, to retain for some time sub pre- 
cario et censu a portion of the Church's property, for 
the support of our army; on these conditions, that a 
solidus (gold piece of 12 denarii) should be paid 
annually to the church or monastery for every 
estate, and that the church be re-invested with its 
property at the death of the present holder. Should, 
however, necessity compel, or the prince ordain it, 
the precarium (or life-interest) must be renewed 
and a new document drawn up; and, in every case, 
care must be taken that the churches and monasteries, 
of which the property is in precario (granted for a 
single life), suffer no want or poverty. But if po- 
verty renders it necessary, the whole property must 
be restored to the church or house of God." l 

It is not surprising that the remarkable document 
before us has been quoted, on the one 'hand, in evi- 

1 Sirmondi, Concil. Gall. (Paris, 1629.), torn. i. p. 540. 


dence of the absolute power which the Carlovingian 
mayors assumed over the Church ; and, on the other, 
of the inviolability of Church property, and the dis- 
approbation with which the conduct of Carl Martel 
was regarded even by his own sons. Our first im- 
pression, on reading this decree, is that the clergy 
had little reason to rejoice in the results of Boniface's 
mediation between themselves and the civil power. 
Not only are the grants of ecclesiastical property, 
made to laymen for secular and warlike purposes, re- 
tained during the lives of the occupants, but express 
provision is made for the renewal of similar grants, 
" when necessity compels or the prince commands it." 
The powers here given of employing the superfluous 
wealth of the Church for secular purposes could hardly 
be greater; yet such a relation between Church and 
State is quite consistent with the circumstances of the 
times. 1 

Humanly speaking, the Frankish Church, sur- 
rounded as it was on either side by the still heathen 
Germans and the Mohammedan conquerors, owed its 
preservation to the sword of Carl Martel. Boniface 
himself emphatically declares that the success of his 
missionary efforts was to be ascribed in a great mea- 
sure to the same potent instrument. The influence 
which the great ecclesiastical dignitaries derived from 
their sacred calling — the great extent and valuable 

1 Pagi (Crit. in Annal. Baron, an. 743, torn, iii.) says on this 
subject : " Uno verbo Pippinus quidem edictis suis bona Ecclesias- 
ticorum reddi precepit, sed interim eorura laicis hoininibus 
reliquit.' 7 

304: THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

immunities of their lands, and their skill in forming and 
leading parties in the State — had been greatly lessened 
by the bold inroads of the same vigorous prince upon 
their exclusive privileges, and his triumph over the 
factious nobles. The irresponsible power, too, of the 
bishops within the Church itself was also curtailed 
by the successful efforts of Boniface to restore the 
chain of subordination among the clergy, and to bring 
the whole body under the absolute supremacy of the 
Bishop of Rome. The important results of this change 
are sufficiently evident ; for this head of the Western 
Church was himself an unwilling tributary to the 
Langobards, and a suppliant to the Frankish mayors 
for deliverance from triumphant enemies. 

We cannot, then, be surprised that the ecclesiastical 
synods should submit to any terms which promised a 
settled state of things for the future. And on close 
examination of the acts of the Synod of Lestines, we 
shall find that, though much is conceded under the 
pressure of the moment, the future is carefully pro- 
vided for. The State acknowledges, in the first place, 
that certain lands now held by laymen had belonged, 
and did still essentially belong, to the Church ; and its 
claim, though held in abeyance, is effectually kept alive 
by the payment of a small fixed rent to the original 
owners ; and, secondly, ecclesiastical property is 
spoken of as a whole ; a point of very great import- 
ance — since the possessions of every religious body, 
however weak in itself, were thus placed under the 
protection of the universal Church. 

The vast funds which the " Secularisation " placed 


at the disposal of the Frankish princes contributed in 
no small degree to establish the Carlovingian throne ; 
for it enabled them to carry out to its full extent the 
system of beneficial (or non-hereditary) grants, and 
to secure the services of the powerful seigniors, who 
were bound to the Sovereign, not only by a sense of 
gratitude, but by the hope of future favours and the 
fear of deprivation. 

A change took place at the period at which we have 
now arrived, which, though easily and noiselessly made, 
and apparently but nominal, forms an important era 
in Frankish history. It costs us an effort to remem- 
ber that Carl Martel, Carloman and Pepin, were not 
kings, but officers of another, who still bore the royal 
title, and occasionally and exclusively wore the crown 
and sat upon the throne. Carloman and Pepin, when 
they were heading great armies, receiving oaths of 
allegiance from conquered princes, and giving away 
duchies, were mayors of the palace to Childeric III., 
a Merovingian king. Even they had thought the 
time not yet come for calling themselves by their 
proper name, and had placed Childeric on the throne. 
The king's name was a tower of strength, which they 
who had met and defeated eveiy other enemy seemed 
to shrink from attacking. 

The foundations of the Merovingian throne, indeed, 
had been thoroughly, perhaps systematically, sapped. 
The king-making mayors had set up monarchs and 
deposed them at their pleasure ; they had even left 
the throne vacant for a time, as if to prove whether 
the nation was yet cured of its inveterate notion that 


306 THE FKANKS. [Chap. VI. 

none but a Merovingian could wear a Prankish crown. 
This last experiment resulted, as we have said, in the 
placing of Childeric III. upon the throne ; an act by 
which Carloman and Pepin must have thought that 
some advantage would be gained, or some danger be 
avoided. At the commencement of their reign power- 
ful tribes were in rebellion, and semi-dependent princes 
might think themselves absolved by a change of 
dynasty from their oaths and engagements, and re- 
gard revolt as a duty as well as a pleasure. The 
Franks themselves had not yet received sufficient 
proof that the sons were worthy of their sire ; and 
the heathen among them naturally clung to the pri- 
meval race. 

But circumstances changed. The mayors became 
more and more the heads of a great semi-feudal 
system, to the members of which they were the sole 
source of wealth, authority and honour. The intes- 
tine troubles of the kingdom had in great measure 
been healed ; the revolted tribes were reduced to more 
complete obedience ; Pepin himself acquired great 
military renown, and the limits of the empire were 
extended to the furthest point which they had ever 
reached. Pepin was already king indeed ; and even 
towards the adoption of the royal name and style 
some gradual progress had been made. It had be- 
come customary to reckon in dates by the years of 
the mayor's office as well as the king's reign. The 
title of princeps and dux is freely given in the chro- 
nicles to Carl Martel and his sons, who regarded the 
royal palaces as their property, and conferred both 


lands and dignities in their own name. There was but 
one step more to the throne, and that step was taken 
at last, when there was scarcely a man in the empire 
who had either the power or the wish to prevent it. 1 

In A. d. 750 Pepin assumed the name of king, 
with the full consent of the nation and the sanction 
of the Pope ; and the last of the Merovingians was 
shorn of his royal locks, the emblems of his power, 
and sent to end his days in the monastery of St. 
Bertin, at Sithiu 2 (St. Omer in Artois). 

The immediate motive for the change is not appa- 
rent ; and the remarkable absence of all impatience on 
the part of Pepin to assume the royal name seems 
to justify the notion that the coup-de-grace was given 
to the Merovingian dynasty by another hand than his. 
It might perhaps have been still deferred, but for the 
growing intimacy of the relations between the Carlo- 
vingians and the Pope. 

The Bishops of Rome had by no means surmounted 
the difficulties and dangers by which they had been 
long surrounded. The Greek emperors, to whom 
they were nominally subject, were too weak either to 
afford them the necessary protection against their 
enemies, or to enforce obedience to themselves ; and, 
in addition to this, the Eastern and Western Churches 
were continually diverging from each other, both in 
their theological views and secular objects. 

1 Erchamberti Breviarium (Mon. German, ii. p. 328.). 

2 Annal. Metten. an. 750. : " Ex consultu beati Zackarire." 

Fredeg. Chron. Cont. cxvii. 

x 2 

308 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

The Langobards hung over the eternal city like a 
cloud which might at any moment send forth the 
destructive flash. Its only chance of safety for the 
moment, its only hope of independence and spiritual 
dominion in the nearer and more distant future, were 
founded upon a close alliance with the Carlovingian 
dynasty. It was a cherished object, therefore, with 
the Popes to bind this illustrious family to themselves 
by the strongest of ties, — the sense of common in- 
terest and mutual indispensability. It was probable 
that Pepin would one day ascend the Frankish throne, 
and it was of the highest moment to the Bishops of 
Pome to assume the initiative in this inevitable dy- 
nastic revolution ; for thus they would acquire a title 
to the gratitude of the new king, and give him an in- 
terest in the preservation of the source from which 
his royal title seemed to spring. The part which 
Boniface took in this transaction is unknown ; but his 
position as the most zealous supporter of the papacy, 
and the intimate friend and counsellor of Pepin, leads 
to the conjecture that a change so much in accordance 
with his known views was not made without his co- 
operation. All that has been transmitted to us is 
the fact that, in a. d. 750 (or 751), an embassy, com- 
posed of Burchard Bishop of Wiirzburg, Fulrad 
Abbot of St. Denys, and Pepin's own chaplain, ap- 
peared at Rome at the Papal Court, and laid the fol- 
lowing question before Pope Zachary for his decision : 
" Whether it was expedient that one who was pos- 
sessed of no authority in the land should continue 
to retain the name of king, or whether it should be 


transferred to him who really exercised the royal 

It is not to be imagined for a moment that Zachary 
was unprepared with his reply to this momentous 
question, which would certainly not have been pro- 
posed had there been any doubt respecting the 
answer. The Pope replied, that "he who really 
governed should also bear the royal name ;" and the 
embassy returned to Pepin with this message, or, as 
some writers take a pleasure in calling it, this com- 
mand. A grand council of the nation was assembled 
at Soissons in the same year, and the major-domus was 
unanimously elected sole king of the Franks, and soon 
afterwards anointed and crowned, with his wife Ber- 
trada, by his old and faithful friend Boniface. 1 

This solemn consecration by the use of holy oil, 
and other ceremonies, observed for the first time at 
the coronation of the Carlovingian kins;, were not 
without their important significance. The senti- 
ment of legitimacy was very strongly seated in the 
hearts of the Frankish people. The dethroned family 
had exclusively supplied the nation with their ru- 
lers from all time ; no one could trace their origin, 
or point to a Merovingian who was not either a 
king, or the kinsman of a king. It was far other- 

1 Einhard. Vit. Carol. M. c. i. Gesta Reg. Francor. an. 752. 
Fredeg. Chron. Cont. cxvii. Annal. Laurissenses Minor, an. 753 
(Monum. Germ, i.) : " Zacharias igitur papa secundum auctor'Ua- 
tcm apostolicam ad interrogationeni eoruin respondit, melius atque 
utilius sibi videri ut ille Rex nominaretur et esset, qui potestatetn 
in regno kubebat, quam ille qui falso Rex appellabatur." Annal. 
Laurissenses et Einliardi, an. 750 (Monum. German, torn. i.). 

x 3 

310 THE FRANKS. [Ciiap. VI. 

wise with Pepin. He was the first of his race 
who had not fought for the office of major-domus 
with competitors as noble as himself. It was little 
more than a century since his namesake of Landen 
had been dismissed from his office by the arbitrary 
will of Dagobert. The extraordinary fertility of 
the Carlovingian family in warriors and statesmen 
had hitherto enabled them to hold their own against 
all gainsayers. But if the new dynasty was to rest 
on something;; more certain and durable than the un- 
interrupted transmission of great bodily and mental 
powers in a single family, it was of vital importance 
to the Carlovingians to rear their throne upon foun- 
dations the depth of which was beyond the ken of 
vulgar eyes. Such a foundation could be nothing else 
than the sanction of heaven, and was to be sought in 
the Christian Church, in the fiat of God's representa- 
tive on earth, who could set apart the Carlovingians 
as a chosen race, and bestow upon them a heavenly 
claim to the obedience of their countrymen. 

We have already referred to the successful efforts 
of Boniface and his followers in the cause of Roman 
supremacy. The belief in the power of the Bishops 
of Rome, as successors of St. Peter, to bind and 
to loose, to set up and to set down, had already taken 
root in the popular mind, and rendered the sanction 
of the popes as efficacious a legitimiser as the cloud 
of mystery and fable which enveloped the origin of 
the fallen Merovingians. 

So gradually was this change of dynasty effected, 
so skilfully was the new throne founded on well- con- 


solidated authority, warlike renown, good govern- 
ment, and religious faith, that as far as we can learn 
from history, not a single voice was raised against the 
aspiring mayor, when his warriors, more majorum, 
raised him on the shield, and bore him thrice through 
the joyful throng; and when Boniface anointed him 
with holy oil, as King of the Franks " by the grace of 
God," not a single champion was found throughout 
that mighty empire, to draw his sword in the cause 
of the last monarch of the house of Clovis. 1 

Pepin was not long allowed to enjoy his new dig- 
nity in peace, but was quickly called upon to ex- 
change the amenities of the royal palace for the toils 
and dangers of the battle-field. 

The Saxons had already recovered from, and were 
desirous of avenging, the chastisement inflicted upon 
them; and having rebelled "in their way," 2 were 
now marching upon the Rhine. But Pepin, who had 
not ceased to be a general when he became a king, 
collected a large army, with which he crossed the 
Rhine, and entering the territory of the Saxons, 
wasted it with fire and sword, and carried back a 
large number of captives into his own dominions. 
" When the Saxons saw this," says the chronicler, 
" they were moved by penitence ; and, with their usual 
fear, begged for the king's mercy, declaring that they 

1 " Pippinus gratia Dei Rex Francorum." — Baluz. Capit. Reg, 
Francor. torn. i. p. 185. 

2 Fredeg. Cliron. Cont. pars iv. c. cxviii. an. 753. (ap. Bouq. 
torn. v. p. 1.). 

x 4 

312 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

would take an oath of fidelity, and pay more tribute 
than they had ever paid before, and never revolt 
again. King Pepin returned, by the aid of Christ, in 
great triumph to Bonn." 

It was on his return from this campaign that he 
received the news of his brother Gripho's death. This 
restless and unhappy prince — whom the indelible no- 
tion of his right to a throne rendered incapable of 
enjoying the noble fortune allotted to him by his 
brother — had fled to Waifar, Duke of Gascony, in the 
hope of inducing him to take up arms. But Waifar 
was not in a condition to protect him ; and when 
the ambassadors of Pepin demanded that he should 
be given up, Gripho was obliged to seek another asy- 
lum. The fugitive then directed his course to King 
Haistulph, foreseeing, probably, that Pepin would be 
drawn into the feud between the Pope and the Lango- 
barcls, the subjects of Haistulph, and therefore think- 
ing that he might already regard the latter as the 
enemy of his brother. As he was passing the Alps, 
however, with a small retinue, he was set upon, in 
the valley of St. Jean de Maurienne, by Count Theodo 
of Vienne and the Trans-juran Count Friedrich. 
Gripho was slain, but not until after a desperate 
struo-ole, in which both the counts above mentioned 
also lost their lives. 1 

Pepin now retired to his royal residence at Dieten- 
hoven, on the Moselle, and spent the few months of 
peace that followed the Saxon war in ordering the 

1 Frede£. Chron. Cont. pars iv. ; cxviii. 


affairs of the Church ; which he effected chiefly 
through the instrumentality of ecclesiastical synods. 
The influence of these assemblies had very much in- 
creased since Boniface first summoned them, and 
their jurisdiction extended itself beyond the sphere 
of merely ecclesiastical matters into the wide and 
undefined field of public morals. 

King Pepin was now called upon to repay the 
obligations conferred upon him by the Papacy when 
it hallowed his usurpation of the Frankish crown. 
The influence of Carl Martel with his ally and friend 
Luitprand, and the reverence which the latter enter- 
tained for the Popes in their spiritual character, had 
caused a temporary lull in the affairs of Italy. But 
Luitprand died about two years after the accession of 
Pepin, and was succeeded, first by his grandson Hil- 
debrand, who reigned seven months, and then by 
Ratchis Duke of Friuli, under whom the Langobards 
renewed the war against Rome. In this emergency, 
Zachary, who, like many other popes, trusted greatly 
and with good reason to his personal influence over 
the rude kings and warriors of the age, went him- 
self to Perusia to beg a peace from Ratchis. The 
result was favourable to a degree beyond his highest 
expectations. The Lombard monarch not only re- 
called his troops — which were already besieging 
the towns of the Pentapolis — and granted a peace 
of forty years, but was so deeply affected by the dig- 
nified demeanour and eloquent exhortations of the 
holy father, that, like another Carloman, he renounced 
his earthly crown, and sought a refuge from the 

314 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

cares of government in the quiet cloisters of Monte 
Casino. 1 

Ratchis was succeeded in a. d. 749 by his brother 
Haistulph, a man by no means so sensible to spiritual 
influences, and remarkable for his energy and strength 
of purpose. 2 In three years from his accession to the 
Lombard throne, he succeeded in driving out Euty- 
chius, the last exarch of the Greek emperors, from the 
Exarchate of Ravenna, and made himself master of the 
city. Having thus secured the possession of the south- 
ern portion of the Roman territory, he marched upon 
Rome itself; and when Pope Zachary died, 15th March, 
in the year a.d. 752, it must have been with the melan- 
choly conviction that all his efforts to preserve the in- 
dependence of Rome, and to further the lofty claims 
of the Papacy, were about to prove fruitless. Once 
more was Hannibal at the gates ; but, fortunately for 
the interest of the threatened city, the successor of 
Zachary, Stephen II., was a man in every way equal 
to the situation. By a well-timed embassy and costly 
presents, he stayed the uplifted arm of the Lombard 
for the moment, and, as often happens in human 
affairs, by gaining time he gained everything. 3 

After remaining quiet for a few months, Haistulph 

1 Vita S. Zacharire, vit. xciii. 

2 We know nothing of him but what his enemies say of him. 
According to them he was " Protervus, iniquus, impius, nefarius, 
malignus, atrocissimus, blasphemus, cliabolicus ! " 

3 Ex Yit. S. Stephan. II. (ap. Anastas. i. p. 196.). On this mis- 
sion he sent his brother Paullus Diaconus and Ambrosius the 
Primiccrins, who was the chief of the seven Palatine judges. 
These last were the chief judges and executive of Rome, who 


again resumed his threatening attitude towards the 
Romans, and demanded a palpable proof of their sub- 
jection to himself, in the shape of a poll-tax of a gold 
solidus 1 per head. A fresh embassy from the Pope, 
which the Lombard king received at Nepe (near Su- 
tri, N. of Rome), met with no success, and the holy 
Abbots of St. Vincent and St. Benedict, who composed 
it, returned to their monasteries in despair. Nor was 
any greater effect produced by the arrival of John, the 
imperial Silentiarius, who was sent by the Greek em- 
peror from Constantinople. 2 This pompous messenger 
brought letters for the Pope and King Haistulph, in 
which the latter was called upon to desist from his pre- 
sent undertaking and to restore the whole of the terri- 
tory of which he had unjustly robbed the Grecian 
empire. The high-sounding language and haughty re- 
quirements of the Ityzantians, unsupported as they 
were by any material power, could make no impres- 
sion upon such a man as Haistulph, and he dismissed 
the imperial envoy with an unmeaning answer. 

The danger of Rome had now reached its highest 
point, and no deliverance seemed nigh. " King Hais- 
tulph," in the language of the chronicler, " was in- 
flamed with rage, and, like a roaring lion, never 
ceased to utter the most dreadful threats against the 
Romans, declaring that he would slay them all with 
the sword, if they did not submit themselves to his 

chose the Pope, and appear to have been prototypes of the seven 
Electors of the Empire. 

1 About seven shillings and sixpence. 

2 Vit. S. Stephan. II. (Anastas. torn, i.). 

316 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

rule." An appeal which the Pope had made to the 
Byzantine emperors for protection was entirely fruit- 
less, and the Romans were utterly unequal to sustain 
unaided a contest with the warlike Langobards. It was 
in this extremity that Stephen determined to test once 
more the value of that close relation which it had been 
the object of so many popes to form with the Frank- 
isli people, and more especially with the Carlovingian 
family. 1 He knew that it would be no easy matter 
to induce King Pepin or his Franks to undertake an 
expedition into Italy with a force sufficient for the 
object in view. He felt, too, that a mere letter from 
Pepin, such as Carl Mart el had sent to his good 
friend Luitprand, would be of no avail to turn the 
ambitious Haistulph from his purpose. Fie therefore 
adopted the singular resolution of crossing the Alps, 
throwing himself at the feet of the Frankish monarch 
and thus giving him a convincing and affecting proof 
that the very existence of the Papacy was at stake. 

With this view the holy father, seeing that all his 
entreaties "for the fold which had been entrusted to him 
(Rome), and the lost sheep" (Istria and the Exar- 
chate of Ravenna), were fruitless, started from Rome 
on the 14th of October, a. d. 753 2 , in company with 
the Abbot Rotdigang and Duke Autchar, whom Pepin 

1 Vit. S. Stephan. II. 

2 Ibid. : " Itaque dum isdem sanctissimus vir, jam fatum pestife- 
rum Longobardorum Regem immensis vicibus innumerabilia tribu- 
eusmunera deprecaretur pro gregibus sibi a Deo commissis et per- 
ditis ovibus scilicet pro universe* exercitu Ravennae, atque cuncto 
istius Italia? provincial populo, quos diabolica fraude ipse impiu 
deceperat Rex, et possidebat." 


had previously sent to Stephen with general promises 
of support. He was also followed by a considerable 
number of the Roman clergy and nobility. 1 On his 
journey northwards he passed through the city of 
Pavia 2 , where Haistulph then was; and though the 
latter had forbidden him to say a word about re- 
storation of territory, he once more endeavoured, by 
rich presents and earnest entreaties, to induce the 
king to give up his conquests and forego his hostile 
purposes. He was warmly seconded by Pepin's en- 
voys, and another epistle from the Greek emperor ; 
but the mind of the fierce Langobard remained un- 
changed. It is evident, indeed, that he would have 
prevented Stephen by force from continuing his jour- 
ney but for the threats of the Frankish ambassadors. 
As it was he endeavoured to intimidate the Pope in 
the presence of Rotdigang into a denial of his wish 
to proceed to the court of Pepin ; and only then dis- 
missed him when he saw that Stephen would yield to 
nothing but actual violence. 

Pepin was still at his palace at Dietenhofen, 
when the intelligence reached him that the Pope, 
with a splendid retinue, had passed the Great St. 
Bernard 3 , and was hastening, according to agreement, 

1 Vii, S. Stephan. II. : " Christo praevio — magnam illi cceli 
serenitatem Domino in ipso itinere tribuente." Yet a little further 
on we read : "Papa prre nimio labore itincris atque temporis in- 
ccqualitate fortiter infirmatus est." 

2 Fred. Chron. Cont. pars iv., cxix. Pope Stephen arrived at 
Pavia Nov. loth, a. d. 753. 

3 Fred. Chron. Cont. exix. " Monte Jovis transmeato '' (Great 
St. Bernard). Vit. S. Stephan. IT. 

318 THE PRANKS. [Chai\ VI. 

to the monastery of St. Maurice at Agaunum. 1 It had 
been expected that the king himself would be there 
to receive the illustrious fugitive ; but Stephen on his 
arrival found in his stead the Abbot Fulrad and 
Duke Rothard, who received the holy father with 
every mark of joy and reverence, and conducted him 
to the palace of Pontyon, near Chalons, where he 
arrived on the 6th of January, a.d. 754. As a still 
further mark of veneration, the young prince Carl was 
sent forward to welcome Stephen at a distance of 
about seventy miles from Pontyon ; and Pepin him- 
self is said to have gone out three miles on foot to 
meet him, and to have acted as his marshal, walking 
by the side of his palfrey. 2 The extraordinary ho- 
nours paid by Pepin to the aged exile proceeded 
partly, no doubt, from the reverence and sympathy 
which his character and circumstances called forth. 
But his conduct might also result from a wise regard 
to his own interests, and a desire of inspiring his sub- 
jects with a mysterious awe for the spiritual poten- 
tate at whose behest he had himself assumed the 

The decisive conference between Pepin and Stephen 
took place at Pontyon on the 16th January. The 
Pope appeared before the Frankish monarch in the 
garb and posture of a suppliant 3 , and received a pro- 

1 In the Swiss Canton of Valais. 

2 " Descendens (Pipinus) de eqno suo, cum magna humilitate 
terras prostratus, una cum sua conjuge filiis et optimatibus eundem 
sanctissimum Papain suscepit." — Jit. S. Stephan. II. 

3 Chron. Moissiac. " Ortus Pippini" (Mon. German, torn. i. 


mise of protection, and the restoration of all the 
territority of which the Langobards had deprived 

The winter, during which no military operations 
could be undertaken, was spent by Stephen at the 
monastery of Saint Denis at Paris. The spectacle of 
the harmony and friendship subsisting between the 
Roman Pontiff and King Pepin was calculated to pro- 
duce a good effect on the Romance subjects of the 
latter ; who, on account of his German origin and ten- 
dencies, was regarded with less attachment in Neustria 
and Burgundy than in his Austrasian dominions. 
This effect was increased by Stephen's celebrating in 
person that solemn act of consecration which he had 
already performed by proxy. At the second corona- 
tion of Pepin, which took place with great solemnity 
and pomp in the church of St. Denis on the 28th 
July, a. d. 754, his Queen, Bertrada, and her two sons 
Carl and Carloman, were also anointed 1 with the holy 
oil, and the two last were declared the rightful heirs 
of their father's empire. That nothing might be 

p. 293.) : (i Sequente die una cum clero suo aspersus cinere, et indu- 
tus cilicio in terrain prostratus. . . ." 

1 Vit. S. Stephan. II.: " Quinto Kal. Aug. . . . unxit (Steph- 

anus P.) in reges Francorum florentissinium Regem Pippinum et 

duos filios ejus Carolum et Carolomannum, sed et Bertradam ipsius 

inclyti Regis P. conjugem, cycladibus regiis gratia septiforinis spi- 

ritus sancti ... in Dei nomine consecravit, atque Francorum 

Proceres Apostolica benedictione sanctificans, auctoritate beati 

Petri . . . obligavit et obtestatus est ut nunquam de altera stirpe 

per succedentium temporum curricida, ipsi vel qaique ex eorum 

progenie orti, Regem super se prcesumant aliquo modo constituereS* 

Chron. Moissiac. Ortus Pippini. 

320 THE FRANKS. [CiiAr. VI. 

wanting on the part of the Church to set apart the 
Carlovingian family as the chosen of God, Stephen 
laid a solemn obligation on the Franks, that " through- 
out all future ages neither they nor their prosterity 
should ever presume to appoint a king over them- 
selves from any other family." The title of Patricias, 
which had first been worn by Clovis, was bestowed 
by the Pope upon the king and his sons. It is diffi- 
cult to understand how this dignity could at this 
period be imparted to any one without the authority 
of the Byzantine emperor. Constantine (nicknamed 
Copronymus) may indeed have taken the opportunity 
of the Pope's journey to offer the patriciate to Pepin ; 
but it is more consistent with the circumstances we 
have described to suppose that Stephen was acting 
irregularly and without authority in conferring a 
Roman title on the Frankish king; and that he in- 
tended at the same time to give a palpable proof of his 
independence of the Emperor who had neglected to 
aid him, and to point out Pepin as his future ally and 

The task which Pepin had undertaken to perform 
was by no means an easy one, nor did the execution 
of it depend solely on himself. The empire indeed 
was enjoying an unwonted freedom from foreign wars 
and domestic broils ; but the great vassals of the 
crown were averse to distant campaigns, both from the 
length of time they consumed, and the ruinous ex- 
pense of maintaining followers far from home. 1 

On the 1st of March, a. d. 755, however, he sum- 

1 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. cxx. 


moiled his council of state at Bernacum (Braine) 1 , 
where the war against the Langobards was agreed to, 
provided no other means could be found to reinstate 
the Pope. In the meantime ambassadors were de- 
spatched to Haistulph, with terms which show that 
the Franks were by no means eager for the expedition. 2 
King Pepin on this occasion styles himself " Defender 
of the holy Roman Church by Divine appointment" 
and demands that the " territories and towns should 
be restored" — not to the Byzantine emperor, to whom 
they at any rate nominally belonged, but " to the 
blessed St. Peter and the Church and commonwealth 
of the Romans." It is at this crisis of affairs that 
Carloman, the brother of Pepin, once more appears 
upon the stage, and in a singular character — viz. as 
opponent of the Pope. Haistulph, by what influence 
we are not informed, prevailed upon him to make a 
journey to the Frankish court, for the purpose of 
counteracting the effect of Stephen's representations. 
He met of course with no success, and was sent by 

1 Between Soissons and Cambrai. 

2 Vita S. Steph. II. : " Plena ei pollicitus est munera." Annal. 
Melt. : " xii niillia solidorum." Chron. Moissiac. : " Ut Sanctam 
Rom. Eccles. cujus ille defensor per ordinationem divinam fuerat 

non amiereret, sed omnem iustitiam de rebus ablatis faceret 

Haistulfus autem requisivit qure ilia justitia esset ; cui legati re- 
sponderunt, ut ei reddas Pentapolim, Narnias et Cecanum .... 
et hoc tibi mandat Pippinus, quod si justitiam sancto Petro 
reddere vis dabit tibi xii niillia solidorum." Codex Carol. Ep. 7. : 
. . . reddere civltates et loca B. Petro sanctceque Dei ecclesice — 
et Tteipubliccp Romanorum" 


322 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

Pepin and Stephen into a monastery at Vienne, 
where he died in the same year. 1 

Haistulph on his part was equally determined, and 
war became inevitable. He would make no promise 
concerning the conquered territory, but would grant 
a safe conduct to Stephen back to his own diocese. 
The lateness of the season allowed of no lengthened 
negotiations. Immediately after the receipt of Hais- 
tulph's answer Pepin began his march towards Italy, 
accompanied by Stephen ; and having sent forward a 
detachment to occupy the passes of the Alps, he fol- 
lowed it with the whole force of the empire. Passing 
through Lyons and Vienne, he made his way to 
Mauri enne, with the intention of crossing the Alps by 
the valley of Susa, at the foot of Mont Cenis. This 
important pass, however, had been occupied by Hais- 
tulph, who had pitched his camp there and was pre- 
pared to dispute the passage. According to the 
chroniclers, he endeavoured to strengthen his posi- 
tion by the same warlike machines which he had 
" wickedly designed for the destruction of the Roman 
state and the Apostolic Chair." 2 The onward march 
of the Franks was effectually checked for the moment, 
and Pepin pitched his camp on the river Arc. In a 
short time, however, a few of the more adventurous 
of his soldiers made their way through the moun- 
tains into the valley of Susa, where Haistulph lay. 
Their inferior numbers emboldened the Langobards, 
who immediately attacked them. " The Franks," says 
the chronicler, " seeing that their own strength and 

1 Vita S. Stephan. II. 2 Ibid. 


resources could not save them, invoked the aid of God 
and the holy Apostle Peter ; whereupon the engage- 
ment began, and both sides fought bravely. But when 
King Haistulph beheld the loss which his men were 
suffering, he betook himself to flight, after having 
lost nearly the whole of his army, with the dukes, 
counts and chief men of the Langobards." 1 The 
main body of Pepin's army then passed the Alps 
without resistance, and spread themselves over the 
plains of Italy as far as Pavia, in which the Lombard 
king had taken refuge. The terrible ravages of the 
invaders, who plundered and burnt all the towns and 
villages which lay along their route, and the imminent 
danger which threatened himself and his royal city, 
subdued for the moment the stubborn spirit of 
Haistulph, and he earnestly besought the Frankish 
prelates and nobles to intercede for him with their 
''merciful" sovereign. He promised to restore Ra- 
venna and all the other towns which he had taken 
"from the holy see" to keep faithfully to his allegiance 
to Pepin, and never again to inflict any injury on the 
Apostolic Chair or the Roman state. The Pope him- 
self, who had no desire to see the Franks too power- 
ful in Italy, earnestly begged his mighty protector 
" to shed no more Christian blood, but to put an end 
to the strife by peaceful means." 2 Pepin was by no 
means sorry to be spared the siege of Pavia, and 
having received forty hostages and caused Haistulph 

1 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. pars iv. c cxx. 

2 Vit. S. Stepli. II. 

y 2 


to ratify his promises by the most solemn oaths, he 
sent the Pope with a splendid retinue to Rome, and 
led his army homewards laden with booty. 

But Haistulph was not the man to sit down quietly 
under a defeat, or to forego a long cherished purpose. 
In the following year he renewed the attack upon the 
Roman territory with a fury heightened by the desire 
of vengeance. 1 Rome itself was besieged, and the 
church of St. Peter on the Vatican sacrilegiously 
defiled. Pope Stephen II., from whose life and letters 
we gain our knowledge of these circumstances, re- 
peatedly wrote to Pepin and his sons for aid, in the 
most urgent, and at times indignant terms. In one 
of his epistles, St. Peter himself is made to address 
them as " his adopted sons," and to chide the delay 
and indecision of the king. After assuring them that 
not he (the Apostle) only, but " the Mother of God, 
the ever- Virgin Mary," and u thrones and dominions, 
and the whole army of Heaven, and the martyrs and 
confessors of Christ, and all who are pleasing to God," 
earnestly sought and conjured them to save the holy 
see, the Apostle promises, in case of their compliance, 
that he will prepare for them " the highest and most 
glorious tabernacles" and bestow on them " the re- 
wards of eternal recompense and the infinite joys of 
paradise." " But if," he adds, " which we do not ex- 
pect, you should make any delay, .... know that, for 
your neglect of my exhortation, you are alienated from 
the kingdom of God and from eternal life." When 
speaking in his own person Stephen says, " Know that 

* Fred. Chron. Cent, pars iv. c. exxi. Vit. S. Steph.II. c. 41. 


the Apostle Peter holds firmly in his hand the deed of 
gift which was granted by your hand's." Nor does 
he neglect to remind the Frankish princes of their 
obligation to the Papacy and the return that they 
were expected to make. " Therefore" he says, "has 
the Lord, at the intercession of the Apostle Peter and 
by means of our lowliness, consecrated you as kings, 
that through you the holy Church might be exalted 
and the prince of the Apostles regain his lawful pos- 
sessions." 1 

The boundless promises and awful denunciations 
of the Pope might have been alike unavailing, had 
not other and stronger motives inclined the king to 
make a second expedition into Italy. The interests 
of his d} T nasty were so closely connected with those 
of the Roman Church, that he could not desert the 
Pope in this imminent peril without weakening the 
foundations of his throne ; and his honour as a war- 
rior and a king seemed to require that the Lombards 
should be punished for their breach of faith. The 
influence of Boniface, too (who w r as still alive, though 
he died before the end of the campaign ), was no doubt 
exerted in behalf of the Papacy which he had done 
so much to raise. Pepin determined to save the Pope, 
but he did so at the imminent risk of causing a revolt 

1 Codex Carol. No. III. : "... ideoque ego Petrus Apostolus 
— qui vos adoptivos habeo filios. . . . Sed et Domina nostra, Dei 
Gcnitrix, semper Virgo Maria, nobiscuin vos magnis obligationi- 

bus adjurans protestatur, &c sciatis vos ex auctoritalo 

eanctce et unicze Trinitatis per gratiam apostoiatus, qua? data est 
mi hi a Christo Domino, vos tdienari p/o Iransgi essione nostra ad 
hortationis a ivy no Del et vita eclcrna" 

v 3 

326 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

among his own vassals, who openly and loudly ex- 
pressed their disapproval of the war. "This war" 
(against the Langobards), says Einhard 1 , "was un- 
dertaken with the greatest difficulty, for some of the 
chief men of the Franks with whom he (Pepin) was 
accustomed to take counsel were so strongly opposed 
to his wishes that they openly declared that they would 
desert the king and return home." Pepin found 
means to pacify or overawe these turbulent dis- 
sentients, and persisted in his determination once 
more to save the head of the Church from the hands 
of his enemies. In this second expedition Pepin 
was accompanied by his nephew Tassilo, who, in obe- 
dience to the war-ban of his liege lord, joined him 
with the Bavarian troops. 2 The Frankish army 
marched through Chalons and Geneva to the same 
valley of Maurienne and to the passes of Mont 
Cenis, which, as in the former year, were occupied by 
the troops of Haistulph. The Franks, however, in spite 
of all resistance, made their way into Italy, and took 
a fearful vengeance for the broken treaty, destroying 
and burning everything within their reach, and giv- 
ing no quarter to their perfidious enemies. They 
then closely invested Pavia ; and Haistulph, convinced 

1 Eitthardi, Vit. Carol. 31. : " Quod (belluni contra Lango- 
bardos) prius quideru et a patre ejus, Stephano Papa supplicante, 
cum magna difficultate susceptum est, quia quidam e primoribus 
Francorum cum quibus consultare solebat, adeo voluntate ejus 
renisi sunt, ut se regem deserturos domumque redituros libera 
voce proclamarent." 

2 Fredeg. Chron. Cont. pars iv. c. cxxi. an. 7o5. Annal. Lauriss. 
ut Einhardi, an. 756. (Monuni. Germ, i.) Vita P. Stephan. II. 


of his utter inability to cope with Pepin, again em- 
ployed the willing services of the Frankish seigniors 
to negotiate a peace. Pepin on his side accepted the 
overtures made to him with singular facility, but 
obliged Haistulph to give fresh hostages, to renew 
his oaths, and, what was more to the purpose, to de- 
liver up a third of the royal treasure in the city of 
Pavia. Haistulph also agreed to renew an annual 
tribute, which is said to have been paid for a long 
time previously to the Frankish monarchs. 

And thus a second time was the Papacy delivered 
from a danger which went nigh to nip its budding- 
greatness, and reduce it to the rank of a Lombard 

Haistulph died while hunting in a forest, before he 
had had time to forget the rough lessons he had re- 
ceived and to recover from his losses in blood and 
treasure. The fact that his life was preserved while 
he was besieging Rome and desecrating St. Peter's 
church, and the consideration that good men too are 
sometimes killed while hunting, did not prevent the 
chroniclers from giving an unanimous verdict of 
" struck by Divine vengeance." * We know but little 
of him beyond this, that he was an ambitious man 
with a strong will, and not more scrupulous in keeping 
oaths than the other princes of his age. Unfortunately 
we cannot use the letters of the Roman pontiffs as 
sources for the biography of their opponents, on ac- 

1 Fred. Chron. Cont. pars iv. c. cxxii. Doc. 756. Vita P. !Su> 
phan. II. Annul. Melt. an. 7o(5. : tL Diviim ultionc pcrcufcirfus." 

y 4 


328 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

count of the exceeding vigour of their style. " The 
tyrant Haistulph" says Stephen II., " the child of the 
devil, who thirsted for the blood of Christians and 
destroyed churches, has been struck by the hand of 
God, and thrust into the abyss of hell in the same 
days in which a year before he had marched out to 
lestroy Borne," 1 cj*c. cj'C. 

A danger from another quarter, which threatened 
the development of the papal power, was also warded 
off by the power and steadfastness of Pepin. When 
the Exarchate of Ravenna was overrun by the Lango- 
bards, it was taken, not from the Pope, but from the 
Greek Emperor ; and even the towns and territories 
which were virtually under the sway of the papal 
chair, were, nominally at least, portions of the 
Eastern Roman Empire. As Stephen had never for- 
mally renounced his allegiance to the Emperor, he 
could receive even the Roman duchy only as a repre- 
sentative of his sovereign, and to the other remains 
of the Roman Empire in Italy he had no claim what- 
ever. The Langobards had dispossessed the Greeks, 
and the Franks had expelled the Langobards. It 
was therefore open to the conqueror to bestow his 
new acquisition where he pleased ; but, at all events, 
the claim of the Greek Emperor was stronger than 
that of his vassal the Bishop of Rome. We cannot 
wonder, then, when we read, that ambassadors 2 from 
Constantinople came to meet Pepin in the neighbour- 

i Cod. Carol. No. VIII. 

- The Protonsecretu Geor^iu^ and the Sileiitiarius Johannes. 


hood of Pavia, and begged him to restore Ravenna 
and the other towns of the exarchate to the Roman 
Emperor. u But they did not succeed," says the 
chronicler, " in moving the steadfast heart of the 
king; on the contrary, he declared that he would by 
no means allow these towns to be alienated from the 
rule of the Roman chair, and that nothing should 
turn him from his resolution." 1 Accordingly, he 
despatched the Abbot Fulrad, with the plenipoten- 
tiary of King Haistulph, to receive possession of the 
towns and strong places which the Lombard had 
agreed to resign. 2 The abbot was further instructed 
to take with him a deputation of the most respectable 
inhabitants from these towns, and in their company 
to carry the keys of their gates to Rome, and lay them 
in St. Peter's grave, together with a regular deed of 
gift to the Pope and his successors. 

The independence of the holy see, as far as re- 
garded the Greek Empire, was thus secured, and a 
solid foundation laid for the temporal power of the 
Popes, who may now be said to have taken their place 
for the first time among the sovereigns of Europe. 

The rising fortunes of the Roman pontiffs were 
still further favoured by a disputed succession to the 
Lombard throne. On the death of Haistulph, his 

1 Vita Stephan. II. Cod. Carol. No. VIII. 

2 These were Ravenna, Ariminum ( Rimini), Pisaurum (Pesaro), 
Conca, Fanuro, Cesina, Senogallia (Sinigaglia), JEiiio (Jcsi), Fo- 
rum Populi, Forum Livii (Forli), Sassubium, Mons Feltri, Acerres, 
Agiomons, Mons Lueati, S<rra, the Castle of S. Marini, Bobium, 
Urbinum, Callis, Luciolis, Eugubium (Gubbio)j and Coiniaelum. 
Vit. Steph. II. 

330 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

brother Ratchis, who had formerly changed a crown 
for a cowl, was desirous of returning to his previous 
dignity, and appears to have been the popular can- 
didate. Desiderius 1 , Duke of Tuscia, Constable of 
Haistulph, obtained the support of the Pope. In 
order to secure this valuable alliance, he had pro- 
mised u to comply with all the holy father's wishes," 
to deliver up other towns in Italy besides those men- 
tioned in Pepin's deed of gift, and to make him many 
other rich presents. " Upon this," says the chronicle, 
" the Arch-shepherd took counsel with the venerable 
Abbot Fulrad, and sent his brothers, Diaconus Paulus 
and Primicerius Christopher, in company with Abbot 
Fulrad, to Desiderius, in Tuscia, who immediately 
confirmed his former promises with a deed and a 
most fearful oath." 2 

After this prudent precaution, it was agreed at 
Rome that the cause of Desiderius should be sup- 
ported, even by force of arms if necessary, against 
Ratchis. " But Almighty God ordered matters in 
such a manner that Desiderius, with the aid of the 
Pope, ascended the throne without any further con- 
test. The promised towns, Faventia (Faenza), with 
the fortresses Tiberiacum, Cavellum, and the whole 
duchy of Ferrara, were claimed, and, according to 
some accounts, received, by the papal envoys ; though 

* "Desiderius vir mitissimus." — Cod, Carol. No. VIII. 

2 Vit. Steph. II. Fred. Chron. Cont. pars iv. e. cxxii. The 
promises of Desiderius were indeed magnificent. Vit. Cod. Carol. 
No. VIII. Annul. Mett. an. 7o8. 


the next Pope complains that Desiderius had not 
kept his promises. 1 Stephen II. ended his eventful 
life on the 24th of April, a.d. 757. 

With the exception of an unimportant expedition 
against the Saxons, in which Pepin gained a victory 
on the river Lippe, and again at Sithiu, near Diilmen 
on the Stever (in Westphalia), nothing of importance, 
in a military point of view, appears to have been 
undertaken before a.d. 760 ; when, according to some 
authors, Narbonne was taken from the Saracens, who 
were now driven from all their possessions on the 
Gallic side of the Pyrenees. 2 

In a.d. 760, began a long series of annual expe- 
ditions against Aquitaine, a country which had as- 
serted a degree of independence highly offensive to 
the Franks. The Aquitanian princes, too, are sup- 
posed to have been peculiarly odious to Pepin, as off- 
shoots from the Merovingian stock. 3 Waifar, the 
reigning duke, the son of that Hunolcl who had re- 
tired from the world in disgust after his defeat by 

1 Epist. Paulli ad Pippin. Cod. Carol. No. XV. 

2 Annal. Mett. an. 752, represent Pepin as marching against 
Narbonne in 752, and leaving a force before that town, by which 
it was taken after a three years' siege, i.e. in 755, when he was 
himself engaged in Italy, in the war with the Langobards. 

3 Clotaire II., son of Chilperic and Fredegunda. 

Cbaribert II. 





332 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

the Franks, inherited the restless and haughty spirit 
of his father, and was ready to renew the contest 
which Hunold had abandoned in despair. The ambitious 
desires of Pepin, quickened by a personal dislike of 
Waifar, were seconded by a strong mutual antipathy 
existing between his own subjects and the Aquita- 
nians. German blood did not enter largely into the 
composition of the population of Aquitaine, and that 
small portion which did flow in their veins was sup- 
plied by the Ostrogoths, a German tribe, indeed, but 
one which differed very widely from their Frankish 
kinsmen. The Aquitanians appear at this time to 
have possessed a degree of civilisation unknown to 
the Franks, whom they regarded as semi-barbarians ; 
while the Franks, in turn, despised the delicacy and 
refinement of their weaker neighbours. Their mu- 
tual dislikes and jealousies were kept alive by a per- 
petual border warfare, which was carried on (as for- 
merly between England and her neighbours on the 
north and w r est) by powerful individuals in either 
country, without regard to the relations existing be- 
tween their respective rulers. It was from these 
causes that Pepin came to look upon the Aquitanians 
and their duke in the same light as the AVelsh were 
regarded by our own Edward I. The affected inde- 
pendence of Waifar, and the continual inroads made 
by the Aquitanians into his dominions, exasperated 
his feelings in the highest degree; and he evidently 
sought the quarrel which occupied him for the re- 
mainder of his life. 

In a.d. 760, Pepin sent an embassy to Waifar, with 


demands which betrayed his hostile intentions against 
that unfortunate prince. On this occasion, too, the 
Frankish monarch came forward as a protector of the 
Church. He demanded of Waifar that he should give 
up all the ecclesiastical property in his dominions 
which had been in any way alienated from the Church ; 
restore the immunities which the lands of the clergy 
had formerly enjoyed ; and cease for the future from 
sending into them his officers and tax-gatherers. 
Furthermore, he demanded that Waifar should pay 
a weregeld " for all the Goths whom he had lately put 
to death contrary to law ;" and, lastly, that he should 
deliver up all fugitives from the dominions of Pepin 
who had sought refuge in Aquitaine. 1 

Waifar had thus the option given him of sub- 
mitting to become a mere lieutenant of Pepin, or of 
having the whole force of the Frankish empire em- 
ployed for his destruction. He chose the latter 
alternative, as every high-spirited prince must have 
done under the circumstances ; and the war began at 
once. " All this," says the chronicler, " Waifar re- 
fused to do ; and therefore Pepin collected an army 
from all quarters, although unwillingly, and, as it were, 
under compulsion! 12 The Frankish army marched 
through Troyes and Auxerre, and, crossing the Loire 
at the village of Masua 3 , and passing through Berri 
and Auvergne, devastated the greater part of Aqui- 

1 Annal. Einhard. an. 760. Annal. Lauriss. an. 760. Fred. 
Chron. Cont. pars iv. c. exxiv. 

2 Ibid. : " Invitus et co-artatus." 

3 Mesves, in the Department Nievre. 

334 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

taine with fire and sword. Waifar, who was not 
sufficiently prepared for the attack, made an insincere 
profession of penitence which deceived no one ; and, 
after taking the necessary oaths of fidelity and 
Giving hostages, was relieved from his unwelcome 
visitors. That this was a mere marauding ex- 
pedition, to which Waifar offered no serious re- 
sistance, is proved by the fact that " Pepin returned 
back without having suffered the slightest loss." 1 

In the following year Waifar, who had formed 
an alliance with Humbert, Count of Bourges, and 
Blandin, Count of Auvergne, considered himself 
strong enough to venture upon an inroad into the 
Frankish territory; and, in company with these allies, 
he led his army, plundering and burning, as far as 
Chalons on the Saone. Pepin's rage at hearing that 
the Aquitanians had dared to take the initiative, and 
had ravaged a large portion of Neustria, and even 
burned his own palace at Melciacum, was further 
increased by the knowledge that some of his own 
counts were aiding the invaders. Hastily collecting 
his troops, he took a terrible revenge, and showed 
the unusual exasperation of his feelings by putting 
his prisoners to death, and allowing a great number 
of men, women, and children to perish in the flames 
of the conquered towns. As Waifar still continued 
contumacious, a similar expedition was undertaken 
by the Franks in the following year, and Bourges 
and Thouars were stormed and taken. Pepin, ac- 

] Fred. Chron. pars iv. c. 125. 


cording to the chronicles, invariably returned from 
these campaigns victorious " by the aid of God," 
or "under the guidance of Christ," "laden with 
booty, and without the slightest loss." 

At the return of spring, in a. d. 763, Pepin held 
the Campus Mains at Nevers l . at which it was 
resolved once more to carry fire and sword into the 
devoted land of Aquitaine, the inhabitants of which 
had already lost almost everything but their stubborn 
hatred of their Frankish oppressors. It is curious, 
when Ave consider that this war was undertaken by 
Pepin on behalf of the Church (which Waifar was 
accused of despoiling), to read the account of the 
destructive march of the Franks. " After desolating" 
nearly the whole of the country about Limoges," says 
the chronicler, " and plundering many monasteries, he 
marched to Issandon (near Limoges), and laid waste 
a great part of Aquitaine, which was chiefly covered 
with vineyards ; for, in nearly the whole of Aqui- 
tania, the churches and monasteries, the rich and the 
poor, cultivated the vine, but he destroyed everything :" 2 

The campaign of this year is remarkable for the 
sudden defection of Tassilo, Duke of Bavaria and 
nephew of Pepin, who, during the march towards 
Aquitaine, suddenly withdrew with his troops under 

1 In the Dep. Nievre. According to the Annal. Petav., the Cam- 
pus Maius (or May Field) was introduced a.d. 755. Annal. 
Mett. an. 762 et 763. 

2 Fred. Chron. Cont. pars iv. c. cxxx. There is a difference of 
two or three years in the chronology of Fredegar and that of the 
Annal. Lauriss. et Einhardi. Annal. Lariss. et Einhardi, an. 763, 
where these events are placed a.d. 763. 

336 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

pretence of illness, with the firm resolve " never 
to see his uncle's face again. " When about twenty- 
one years of age, Tassilo had been compelled to swear 
fealty to Pepin at the Campus Maius held at Com- 
piegne in A. d. 757. Since that period he had been 
kept continually near his uncle's person, as if the 
latter was not satisfied with the sincerity of his 
subservience. The defection of Tassilo, at a time 
when the Frankish power was engaged in this 
desperate and bitter contest with the Aquitanians, 
caused great anxiety to Pepin ; and though the march 
was continued as far as Cahors (Dep. Lot.), little of 
importance was effected. 

The diet was held in the following vear, a. d. 764, 
at Worms, where it was discussed whether the 
war should be proceeded with or the revolt of 
the Bavarians be first suppressed. It would ap- 
pear, however, that Pepin found it impossible to 
induce his vassals to march in either direction, 
for we are told that he passed the whole year at 
home, and spent the winter at his palace at Chiersy. 1 
He endeavoured, indeed, to plant a thorn in the side 
of Waifar by bestowing the lately conquered town of 
Argenton and the province of Berri on Eemistan, 
the uncle of Waifar, who had voluntarily sworn 
allegiance to him. But this hope, too, failed ; for 
Eemistan was false to his own treachery, and soon 
reconciled himself to his nephew, and took up the 
national cause. To show his sincerity in this second 

1 According to the Annal. Lauriss. et Einhardi, a.d. 764. 


change, Remistan devastated the territory of Bourges 
and Limoges in so terrible a manner that " not a 
farmer dared to till his fields or vineyards." * 

The effect of the perpetual and harassing inroads 
of the Aquitanians upon the Franks was such as 
Pepin most desired. It exasperated them to such a 
degree that they were ready to make any sacrifice to 
destroy their troublesome enemy. In the campus 
Maius, therefore, which Pepin held at Orleans in a. p. 
766, he found his vassals fully prepared to second his 
designs, and determined, at any cost, to finish the 
war. Considerable progress was made towards the 
subjugation of Waifar's territory during this year, but 
still more in the two following ; in the former of which 
the city of Toulouse 2 and the fortresses Scoraillc, 
Turenne, and Peiruce were taken, and in the latter 
the Frankish army pressed on as far as the Garonne, 
Perigueux, and Saintes. 

Waifar and his people were by this time utterly 
exhausted by their exertions and calamities, and, 
beinsr without the means of continuing the war, lay 
at the mercy of the conquerors. Embittered by the 
opposition he had met with, Pepin acted with unusual 
harshness. Taking his family with him to Saintes, 
and leaving them there, " he turned his whole mind 
to the destruction of Waifar, and determined never 

1 Fred. Chron. Cont. pars iv. c. cxxxiii. 

2 Annal. Lauriss. et Einhard. an. 767. ; Conf. Ann. Einb. ad 
an. eund. ,In this same year he also held a synod at Sol money 
(near Laon), de Sancta Trinitate vel de Sanctorum imaginibus inter 
orientalem et occidentalem Eceles., id est, Romanos et Grrecos. . . ." 


338 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

to rest till he had captured or killed the rebel." x 
Remistan was soon afterwards taken prisoner and 
hung as a traitor. 2 The mother, sister, and niece of 
Waifar fell into the hands of the Franks, and were 
sent off into the interior of the kingdom. 3 That un- 
happy prince himself, deprived of every hope, and 
every consolation in disaster, deserted by the great 
mass of the Gascons, and hunted from hiding-place to 
hiding-place like a wild beast, met with the common 
fate of unfortunate monarchs ; he was betrayed and 
murdered by his own followers in the forest of Edobold 
in Perigord. 4 The independence of Aquitaine fell 
with him, and the country was subsequently governed 
by Frankish counts like the rest of Pepin's empire. 

The victor returned in triumph to his queen Ber- 
trada (who was awaiting him at Saintes), rejoicing, 
doubtless, in having at last attained the object of so 
many toilsome years. His implacable and hated foe 
was no more ; the stiff-necked Aquitanians were at 
his feet ; his southern border was secure ; and the 
whole empire was in an unwonted state of peace. 
He had every reason to look forward with confidence 

1 Annal. Einhardi^ an. 768. 

2 Fred. Citron. Cont. pars iv. c. exxxiv. : " In patibulo sus- 
pendi jussit.'' Conf. Tacit. Germ. xii. . " Proditores et trans- 
fugas arboribus suspend unt." 

3 " Quas cum pie susceptas servari jussisset." — Einhard. Annal. 
an. 768. 

4 " Dolo warratonis." — Annal. Lauriss. Min. an. 768. Fred. 
Chron. Cont. pars iv. e. exxxv. : " Dum hcec agerentur, ut asse- 
runt, consilio Regis factum, Waifarius Princeps Aquitanias a suis 
interfectus est." 


to an interval at least of quiet, which he might spend 
in domestic pleasures and in the regulation of the 
internal affairs of the vast empire over which he 

But where he had looked for repose and safety an 
enemy awaited him more terrible than any whom he 
had encountered in the field. A short time after he 
arrived at Saintes, he was attacked by a disease which 
is variously described as fever and dropsy. Con- 
vinced that his case was beyond all human aid, he 
set out with his wife and children to Tours, and, 
entering the church of St. Martin, earnestly prayed 
for the intercession of that patron saint of the 
Frankish kings. From thence he proceeded to Paris, 
and passed some time in the monastery of St. Denis, 
invoking the aid of God through his chosen servants. 
But when he saw that it was the will of heaven that he 
should die, lie provided for the future welfare of his 
subjects ; summoning the dukes and counts, the bishops 
and clergy of his Frankish dominions, he divided the 
whole empire, with their concurrence, between his 
two sons, Carl and Carloman. He died a few days 
after the settlement of the succession, on the 24th of 
September, A. d. 768, in the twenty-fifth year of his 
prosperous reign, and was buried by his sons, with 
great pomp, in the church of St. Denis, at Paris. 1 

Pepin was described by Alcuin, in the following 
generation, as an " energetic and honourable" prince, 
" distinguished alike by his victories and his vir- 

1 Fred. Cliron. Cont. pars iv. c cxxxvi. Annal. Mett. an. 768. 

z 2 

340 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

tues ;" and although such epithets were used, more es- 
pecially in that age, without sufficient discrimination, 
there is every reason in the present case to adopt them 
in their full significance. In the field, indeed, he had 
fewer difficulties to deal with than his warlike father. 
In all his military undertakings the odds were 
greatly in his favour ; and he had not the same 
opportunities as Carl Martel of showing what he 
could effect by the mere force of superior genius. 
Yet, whatever he was called upon to do, he did with 
energy and success. He quickly brought the re- 
volted German nations, the Bavarians and Suabians, 
to the obedience to which the hammering of his 
predecessor had reduced them ; and he drove back 
the restless Saxons to their wild retreats. Twice he 
led an army across the Alps against a brave and 
active enemy, and twice returned victorious, after 
saving the distant city of Rome from imminent 
destruction and securing the independence of the 

As a civil ruler he showed himself temperate and 
wise. Though greatly superior in every respect to 
his brother, he took no unfair advantage of him, but 
lived and acted with him in uninterrupted harmony. 
Though his ambition induced him to assume the 
name of king, he did so without haste or rashness, 
at a time and under circumstances in which the 
change of dynasty was likely to cause the least 
amount of ill-feeling or disturbance. 

In his relations to the Church he displayed both 
reverence and self-respect. From conviction as well 


as policy, he was a staunch supporter of Christianity 
and the Roman Church : but he was no weak fa- 
natic ; he cherished and advanced the clergy, and 
availed himself of their superior learning in the 
conduct of his affairs ; but he was by no means 
inclined to give way to immoderate pretensions 
on their part. He always remained their master, 
though a kind and considerate one ; nor did he 
scruple to make use of their over-flowing coffers for 
the general purposes of the State. 

Of his private life we know scarcely anything at 
all; but we have no reason to suppose that it was 
inconsistent with that respect for religion, that love 
of order, justice, and moderation which he generally 
manifested in his public acts. In his last campaigns 
against Waifar and the Aquitanians alone does he 
seem to have been betrayed into a cruel and vin- 
dictive line of conduct ; and from them, as we have 
seen, he received the greatest provocation. 

With such high qualities, important transactions, 
and glorious deeds, connected with his name, we 
might wonder that the fame of Pepin is not greater, 
did we not know the diminishing force of unfavour- 
able contrast. Unfortunately, for his renown at least, 
he had a father and a son still greater than himself. 
Such a man would have risen like an alp from the level 
plain of ordinary kings : as it is, he forms but a link 
in a long chain of eminences, of which he is not the 
highest ; and thus it has come to pass that the tomb 
of one who ruled a mighty empire for twenty-five 

z 3 

342 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VI. 

years with invariable success, who founded a new 
dynasty of kings, and established the Popes on their 
earthly throne, is inscribed with the name of his still 
more glorious successor ; and all his high qualities 
and glorious deeds appear to be forgotten in the fact 
that he was "Pater Caroli Magni!" 




The political institutions, laws, and customs car- 
ried by the Franks into Gaul, which, in a form deve- 
loped by time and modified by foreign influence, were 
subsequently established by Charlemagne throughout 
the greater part of Europe, are the groundwork of 
modern civilisation. They possess, therefore, the 
strongest claims to the interest of all who would 
study the Carlovingian period of Frankish history, 
or trace to their origin the various, and often incon- 
gruous, phenomena of European life. 

But the investigation of this subject is rendered 
difficult and disappointing by the fragmentary nature 
of the accounts which have come down to us re- 
specting the political state of Europe in the sixth and 
seventh centuries. And if the poverty of the sources 
of our knowledge were all we had to regret, — if they 
were but clearer, less adulterated with fable, more in 
harmony with each other, — our task would be less ar- 
duous than it is. Yet the deficiencv of materials for a 
constitutional history of this period is not accidental— 
not the consequence of Alexandrian fires or monkish 

z 4 

344 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

want of taste or parchment, but of the circumstances 
of the times themselves. The different substances of 
which society is composed lie before us now in distinct 
and regular strata ; then they were in a state of fusion. 
And who, when looking into that boiling mass, could 
undertake to describe each evanescent bubble, as it 
rose to the troubled surface, or prophesy what en- 
during shapes would one day issue from it ? 

The literary monuments from which we derive our 
limited knowledge of the middle ages are indeed con- 
fused, but not more so than the then existing state of 
things. They are inconsistent and irreconcilable be- 
yond all parallel, but so were the phenomena them- 
selves. The Gallo-Roman and the German differed 
so widely from each other in their national charac- 
teristics, as to render their union difficult under 
any circumstances ; but their original disparity was 
greatly increased by the different degrees of civilisa- 
tion to which they had attained when they first came 
into collision with each other, and by the opposing 
nature of their religion, laws, and civil polity. In 
that strange period, forms of government fresh from 
the forests of Germany were seen side by side with 
the latest rescripts of imperial tyranny ; and laws 
" dictated by necessity and written down by free- 
dom " with the subtlest refinements of the Roman 
jurists. The votaries of the rude and cruel super- 
stitions of the Northern Mythology became daily 
witnesses of the rites and ceremonies of the Chris- 
tian Church. Fearless independence and rude poverty 
were brought into the closest contact with mean ser- 


vility and enervating luxury. On the one side was 
ignorance, on the other learning : here bodily strength 
and martial prowess; there mental subtlety and vi- 
gour: here rudeness of manners, bordering on bru- 
tality ; and there refinement, carried to an effeminate 
excess. No wonder, then, that the succeeding" ae:c 
was one in which history was silent, or gave but an 
uncertain sound, — that men of the clearest intellect 
should be able to see but little in that chaotic dark- 
ness, — that after many a long and anxious gaze they 
should so widely differ from one another, in their 
reports of what they see. " Such, in fact," says M. 
Guizot, " is the character of the barbarian epoch ; it 
is the chaos of all elements, the infancy of all sj^stems, 
a universal pell-mell, in which even the struggle itself 
is neither permanent nor systematic." And again : 
" After examining in all its phases the social state of 
this period, I could show you that it is impossible to 
discover anywhere a principle at all general, or at all 

Nor does the difficulty which history finds in 
making her way through this intricate region arise 
solely from the confusion caused by the mingling of 
dissimilar races under very peculiar circumstances. 
Much of this disorder would have arisen had the 
Franks found Gaul altogether uninhabited ; for they 
were not at one among themselves. The govern- 
ment and religion of the ancient Germans were very 
local in their character, not easily transplanted to 
another region. The exercise of their political rights 
and the performance of their religious ceremonies 

346 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

were bound up with certain family and communal 
arrangements, and associated with certain holy places, 
and when these were disorganised or left behind, it 
was not an easy matter to reconstruct them under 
novel circumstances and on foreign ground. During 
their long wanderings in search of their promised 
land, the citizen became a soldier, the people an 
army ; and they were subjected for an unusually long 
period to a control of a much stricter kind than any 
in which they would have acquiesced at home. And 
when at length they ceased to move, and settled 
down in the lands which their swords had won, the 
more arbitrary authority which had grown up during 
the period of transition was too firmly established to 
be immediately shaken off. Yet those who, for a 
definite object, submitted themselves to military rule, 
could not forget their rights, or easily consent to be 
permanently degraded in the social scale. And 
hence arose fresh struggles between existing powers 
and ancient traditions, between claims of authority 
which were not allowed, and inalienable rights which 
could not be exercised. 

The difficulty of this transition from a fluid to a 
solid state, from the habits and arrangements of 
soldiers and wanderers, to the manners and laws of a 
settled community, were greatly increased by the 
most striking national characteristics of the Teuton. 
He is by no means social or plastic in his nature ; he 
is a stubborn, angular, and impracticable unit, which 
loves to develope itself on all sides in its own way, 
and hates above all things to be fitted into a system, 


or to become part of a machine. This peculiarity 
would display itself most strongly in such a scene as 
we have endeavoured to describe ; where the state, 
which is generally strong enough to coerce the most 
unruly individual, was disorganised and weak. Hav- 
ing no longer before him the beaten road which his 
ancestors had trodden for ages, every man " fol- 
lowed after that which was good in his own eyes,' 7 
crossing his neighbour's path, thwarting his neigh- 
bour's plans, with all the ineradicable idiosyncrasy of 
his race. 

The influence of this strong leaven in the Teutonic 
nature is still observable, and particularly so in the 
nation whose German blood is least " contaminated " 
by foreign admixture 1 , and in the land where German 
institutions have had the best opportunities of fully 
developing themselves. We mean of course England 
and the English. Where are there found so many 
incongruous materials in one structure as go to form 
the English constitution ? Where greater incon- 
sistency and confusion than in the English law ? 
Where greater irregularity of action than in English 
legislation and English justice ? 

The individual is not absorbed into the mass in the 
same degree among us as in other nations. Nowhere 

1 Tac. Germ., c. iv. : ". . . nullis aliis aliarum nationum connu- 
biis infectos. . . ." The Anglo-Saxons drove out the Britons ; and 
both Danes and Normans were Germans. Conf. Roth, Beneficial- 
wesen, p. 33. : " It was not its insular position, but the exclusion 
of all Celtic and Romance elements which kept England, compara- 
tively speaking, free and happy." 

348 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

else do you hear so much of vested rights, or so often 
see a single arm thrust into the great wheel of state, 
whether to check its beneficial progress or to stay the 
perilous rapidity of its course. It is difficult enough 
to induce Englishmen to combine, even for the at- 
tainment of really great and worthy objects ; but 
happily still more so to unite them in the pursuit of 
the phantoms of the political empiric's phrenzied brain. 
Our course is circuitous, and our motions irregular 
and slow, but they are nearly always in the right 

It is this Teutonic peculiarity which makes our 
institutions so clumsy, but so massive and impreg- 
nable. It is this which makes our people at the same 
time the most liberal and the most conservative, the 
freest and the most loyal in the world, the greatest 
lovers of what is old, and the first to reap the real 
advantage of what is good in the new. 

The object we propose to ourselves, of gaining as 
correct a view as is practicable of the institutions of 
the Franks in Gaul, will be best promoted by first 
considering the principles and forms of government 
which prevailed among them previous to their migra- 
tions. And here if we could adopt the opinion of M. 
Lehuerou, that our German forefathers were mere 
bands of marauders, with robber chieftains at their 
head ; or that of M. Guizot, who says, that they had 
no public power, no government, and no state, then 
our trouble would be small. But as all ancient au- 
thorities agree in attributing to the early Germans a 
sense of justice and order remarkable in barbarians; 


as their institutions still form an important part of 
the strongest form of government in the old world, 
and reign triumphant in the new, it seems both in- 
teresting in itself, and indispensable to our purpose, 
to give a brief outline of their principal features. 

The German state owed its origin to the union of 
families into separate but politically connected com- 
munities. The freeman chose his place of abode ac- 
cording to his own wants and tastes, without much 
deference to the wishes of others. There he fixed 
himself, and established, reared, and ruled his family. 
But though he thus gratified his individuality, — to 
him the first necessity, — he stood in close relation 
to others, as a member of different communities of 
smaller and greater extent. Those families in whom 
the principle of association was strongest chose a 
place for a villa (village, in which, however, each house 
must stand by itself), and common land, to be divided 
among the occupants according to their wants. 
Others, living at a greater distance from one another 
in the midst of their own land (Mansus), formed a 
Mark; and these too had, besides their mansi, lands 
and woods in common. In the earliest times of Ger- 
man history, the family had great significance and 
importance ; its rights were respected even in the 
battle field. 1 On this subject we shall have an oppor- 
tunity of saying more in a chapter on the Salic Law, 
in which the family is often referred to, and the 
village appears as a close corporation. 

1 Tjic. Germ. vii. 

350 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

The free possessors of land and heads of families, 
whether living in the stricter union of the villa, or 
spread through the mark in distant mansi, were 
members of the political division called the Hundred ; 
a term of which the origin can only be guessed at. It 
has been supposed by some, with a great degree of 
probability, that it was originally composed of a 
hundred estates ; others have tried to connect the 
word with a passage of Tacitus x ; and others again 
look upon it as a military division. However this 
may be, it is certain that the numerical meaning of 
the word was soon as entirely lost as in England at 
this day. The hundred was a political and probably 
a territorial division ; and itself formed part of the 
Gau (or Canton), the limits of which were not arbi- 
trarily fixed, but varied with the extension of the 
tribe. Before those great confederations were formed, 
of which the Franks were one, the gau was a country 
in itself. 2 Thus, the Sicambri, Bructeri, Ansibarii, 
&c, each inhabited a gau ; in their union, those 
petty principalities became integral portions of a 

The state was thus formed by the union of equal 
and independent freemen, whose rights as citizens 
were bound up with the possession of land and mem- 
bership of certain corporate bodies. Freedom and 
land were the necessary conditions of political ex- 
istence. We shall see hereafter that there were other 

1 Tac. Germ. xii. 

2 The origin of the Gau is seen in Cresar, Bell. Gall. vi. 22., 
and Tac. Germ. xxvi. 


inhabitants who were not free, and who stood in no 
direct relation to the State. 

Throughout the whole system, the principle of self- 
government prevailed in its greatest purity. As the 
freeman ruled his family, so the villa, the mark, the 
hundred, the gau, governed itself by means of elected 
magistrates and popular assemblies, to which every 
freeman had access. 1 Each of the divisions above 
mentioned had its Parliament (Mallus, Thing, &c), 
which either managed local affairs, as in the hundred, 
or exercised supreme authority over the whole tribe, 
as in the gau. These assemblies of the whole body 
of freemen had a triple capacity, — the local or political 
one just mentioned, that of a court of justice, and 
that of a council of war. Where the gaus or coun- 
ties were united into a larger country, this too had 
its council, in which all rights were represented, all au- 
thorities combined, and all the links of the long chain 
of government united and firmly joined together. 
To this assembl} 7 , however, came not the whole mass 
of freemen, as to the others, but Deputies (Legationes) 
from every gau or hundred. 

The assembly of which Tacitus has given us a 
graphic description was the sovereign assembly of the 

" They meet," he says, — "unless something for- 
tuitous or unexpected intervenes — on certain fixed 
days, either at the new or full moon." 2 They come to 

1 Tac. Germ. xii. " EUguntur in iisdem conciliis ct priucipes, 
qui jura per pagos vicosque reddant." 

2 Tac, Germ. xi. 


52 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

the place of assembly in arms, as befits their freedom, 
and slowly and irregularly, to show their indepen- 
dence. The transaction of business was preceded by a 
feast 1 which, according to him, seems to have been 
necessary to dissolve the natural reserve of their 
character. Whether they have to consult on the 
reconciliation of enemies, or the formation of new 
alliances, or to determine the questions of peace or 
war, they generally deliberate during a banquet; 
thinking that at no other time is the mind so ac- 
cessible to sincere thoughts, or so capable of being 
warmed to great ones. The nation, neither astute nor 
crafty, reveal the secrets of their breasts in the 
license of joviality. The opinions thus unreservedly 
revealed are reconsidered on the following day. . . . 
u They deliberate when they cannot feign, they make 
their decision when they cannot err." 

When they are all assembled at the appointed place, 
the chief priest of the nation comes forward, com- 
mands silence, and begins to take the auspices in the 
manner described above. 2 If the lots were favourable, 
the meeting was constituted and the proceedings com- 
menced ; if otherwise, no consultation could be held 
on that day. u On minor matters," continues Tacitus, 
" the Principes (the magistrates of the gaus or hun- 
dreds) consult — on the more important, all," 3 but in 
such amanner that the magistrates first considered the 
matter thoroughly, and then laid it before thepeople 
for their decision. The absolute authority of the 

1 Tac. Germ. xxii. 2 P. 29. 3 Tac. Germ. xi. 


popular will, and the limited nature of the power 
which the chiefs and even the kings themselves 
(where such existed) can have exercised, is deducible 
from another part of the same chapter. " The as- 
sembly is addressed," he says, "now by the king, 
now by a magistrate (princeps), and now by other 
persons, according as they are distinguished by age, 
nobility, military glory, or eloquence ; and they in- 
fluence their hearers rather by the power of persuasion 
than the right of command." 

We learn from the writings of Caesar and Tacitus 
that the form of government varied in different Ger- 
man states, some of which were pure democracies 1 , 
while others were ruled by a petty king — elected, but 
elected for life, Tacitus also mentions states where 
pure monarchy prevailed ; but these were exceptional, 
and entirely out of the visual German norm. We 
have preferred to describe the constitution of the de- 
mocratic states, because by doing so we give the best 
idea of the characteristic German polity; and because 
the magistrate kings of the Germans were something 
superadded to the social structure, and did not mate- 
rially affect the general principle of self-government 
by popular assemblies. The very limited nature of the 
power of the kings is a proof that that power was not 
gained through any violent political convulsion. 2 Ger- 

1 Ccesar. Bell. Gall. vi. 23. : " In pace nullus est communis 
niagistratus, sed principes regionum atque pagorum inter suos jus 
dicunt, controversiasque minuunt." 

2 Tac. Germ. viii. : " Nee Regibus infinitce aut libera potestas ; 
et Duces exemplo potius quam imperio proesunt." 

A A 

354 THE FRANKS. [Chai>. VII. 

man royalty was of native growth, and differed essen- 
tially from any other type of kingship. 1 Its origin 
may have been different in different tribes. In some 
the Dux who was chosen in war established himself 
so firmly in his seat as to receive the obedience of 
the Principes in time of peace. The leaders of the 
Frankish tribes were originally called Dukes, and 
ruled their gaus with monarchical, but evidently 
very limited powers. The principal difference, as we 
have said, between the kings in the monarchical, and 
the Principes or magistrates in the democratic states, 
was, that the former were elected for life, and that 
the office was confined to certain families. The length 
of time for which the mere magistrate of the gau was 
chosen is uncertain, but we know that he was re- 
sponsible to those who chose him : the office was open 
to every freeman, without distinction of birth. Where 
the royal power was extended over an union of gaus, 
it is probable that the king had the right of nomi- 
nating the magistrates (principes). 

We have hitherto confined our attention to those 
orders of men who alone enjoyed political exist- 
ence and constituted the state, — the kings — and 
the freemen or Ingenui. Below these, last in the 
social scale, and only connected with the body politic 
through them, were the Liberti or freedmen, the Liti 
or hereditary bondsmen of the soil, and the Servi or 
proper slaves. Of the Liberti, Tacitus remarks that 
their condition was not far removed from that of the 

1 Tac. AnnaL xiii. 54. : " Auctore Verrito ct Malorige qui na- 
tionem earn regebant, in quantum Germani regnantur" 


slave, — that they seldom, except in countries where 
royal power prevailed, attained to any influence in 
the family, and never in the state. 1 In the Salic law 
we find them under the protection or mundium of a 

The Liti, though not free, formed a distinct order, 
and probably differed from the Servi both in the 
manner in which they fell into the servile condition, 
and in the services required of them. When a country 
was conquered and taken permanent possession of by 
German settlers, the former owners of the land were 
in some cases compelled to cultivate it for the profit 
of their new lords. They answered therefore to the 
Coloni of the Romans. Like these, they paid a fixed 
rent in kind to their masters, who allowed them to live 
in a house of their own, and to enjoy with some degree 
of security whatever was left to them after fulfilling 
the imposed conditions. Such were the Liti, who, 
although they too were the absolute property of 
others, enjoyed, on sufferance and by custom, — which 
often gives a sort of right to those who have no rights? 
— a certain modicum of independence. 2 

But the class of Servi was formed from the pri- 
soners taken with arms in their hands, who were 
considered as a saleable part of the victors booty. 
On the same footing were those who forfeited their 
liberty in gaming, when the frenzied player staked 

1 Tac. Germ. xxv. 

2 Tac. Germ, xxv.: " Suam quisque sedern, suos penates regit. 
Frumentimodum dominus aut pecoris autvestis, ut colono,injungit." 

A A 2 


56 THE FRANKS. [Chai>. VII. 

himself and lost. l To the services required from 
this class there was no limit. Like beasts of the 
field, they received as much as Avas necessary to 
enable them to serve their masters, and no more. 
Without rights, without protection from the law, 
they were regarded as the mere chattels of their 
owner, to be scourged, or broken on the wheel, or 
slaughtered at his pleasure. 

We have purposely deferred the consideration of 
the disputed question, as to the existence or non- 
existence of an order of nobility among the Franks, 
on account of its close connection with their military 
constitution — the subject of the next-following pages. 
The generally received opinion is that of Eichhorn 
and Savigny ; who infer, from some passages in 
Tacitus, that the Franks had an hereditary class 
of nobles, with exclusive political, military, and even 
priestly rights and privileges. 2 According to these 
writers, the " Principes " of Tacitus are the pre- 
decessors and ancestors of the Antrustiones and the 
feudal chiefs of still later times. The controversy 
turns upon the interpretation of the word prin- 
ceps, and a few passages which speak of the for- 
mation of a military retinue. It must be confessed 
that the language of Tacitus is very obscure on this 
subject ; and that it is impossible to find a sense for 
some of his terms, which is equally suitable to every 

1 Tac. Germ. xxiv. 

2 Eichhorn, Deutsche Staats- und Rechts-Geschichte. Gottingen 
1843. Savigny, Rechtsgeschichte des Adels. 


passage in which they occur. l He certainly seems to 
speak of a class superior to the " Ingenui" 2 though he 
assigns them no place in the state above the simple 
freeman. Nor are traces of the early existence of a 
German nobility altogether wanting in documents of 
later times. 3 In the laws of the Bavarians mention 
is made of five noble families, whose weregeld was 
fixed at double that of an ordinary freeman. In the 
Salic law, however, there is no allusion to such an 
order. If it ever existed among the Salians, it must 
either have died out, or have been so utterly desti- 
tute of privileges of any kind as to leave no trace 
in a code of laws in which all the different orders 
of men are very accurately distinguished. Even in 
those tribes in which the existence of nobles can 
hardly be doubted, their numbers appear to have 
been very small. We have seen above that the 

1 E. g. compare the use of the word Princeps in Tac. Germ. 
x., xii., and xiii. 

2 Tac. Annal. xi. 17.. " Quando nobilitate ceteros anteiret. 
Tac. Hist. iv. 15. : "Brinno claritate natalium insigni." Id. 
iv. 5,5. : " Classicus nobilitate opibusque ante alios." Conf. Tac. 
Germ, viii. : " Puelke nobiles. 17 Ibid. xiii. Velleius Paterc. 108. : 
Ci Maroboduus juvenis genere nobilis." Strabo says that Marobod 
rose !£ Iolojtov. 

3 Grimm (Deutsche Reichsalterthiimer, p. 269.) says: "Da der 
Aclel iiberhaupt angesehen werden muss, nicht ah ein ur sprung- 
lick von dem Stande der Freien verscJiiede?i vielruehr als ein cms 
ihm durch die nahere Beziehung auf die Wiirde des Herrschers 
and Konigs hervorgegangen? &c. Waitz, Verfassung's-Gesch. 
i. p. 81.: "IVorin der Adel bcstand? Ich weiss es mit Restimmt- 
heit nicht zu sagen, unci cdle Zevgnisse geben keine Antioort" 
Barth, Urgesch. ii. p. 415. 

a a 3 


58 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

Bavarians had onty Jive such families. Of the 
Cherusci, Tacitus informs us that the whole of their 
nobility had been destroyed in civil discord, so that 
they were obliged to send to Rome for the sole 
remaining scion of the royal stock. These facts have 
suggested the idea that the old nobility of the Franks 
had disappeared in the course of time, with the sole 
exception of the Merovingian family, to whom was 
left the exclusive privilege of furnishing kings to the 
several Frankish tribes. 

The inquiry is, however, of less importance, be- 
cause, even if such a class existed among the Franks 
at an earlier period, it had wholly disappeared before 
their history commences ; and all the attempts that 
have been made to connect it with the newly-formed 
nobility of a subsequent age have been entirely 
fruitless. At the time when the Salic law was 
composed, the Ingenui had no superiors but their 
king, and such of their own class as derived from 
royal favour or popular election the temporary and 
responsible authority of office. 

In a nation like the Franks, whose favourite pur- 
suit and most important business were war and 
conquest, the constitution of the army is a subject 
of the greatest interest. The foundation of their 
military system was the obligation of every freeman 
to serve the king in his own wars, on conditions 
determined rather by custom and precedent than by 
any legislative enactment. 

The migrations and conquests of the Germans 
were, for the most part, made by whole tribes or 


nations; moving in obedience to a decree of their 
central government, under regularly constituted 
leaders. The ban, which summoned the nation to 
war, was published by the king or temporary dux. 
The freemen of the various divisions of the country 
assembled under their respective leaders, and set 
forward to the general rendezvous of the entire army. 
When they had new settlements in view, they were 
accompanied on their march by their children and 
wives, who, on many occasions, appear to have played 
no mean or unimportant part. 

But, besides the wars and conquests in which the 
whole nation took part, we have accounts of expe- 
ditions undertaken by enterprising leaders at the 
head of volunteers, with a view to plunder and 
adventure. The passages of Caesar and Tacitus, 
where they speak of the mode in which the Comi- 
tatus was formed, are very differently interpreted 
by different writers, and have never yet received an 
entirely satisfactory explanation. 

It is clear, however, that the Comitatus was strictly 
subordinate to the authorities of the state in which it 
was formed. It had, in fact, the character of a corps 
of volunteers, which sometimes acted in concert with 
the regular army, and sometimes engaged alone in 
freebooting expeditions against the public enemy. 
" In the council," says Caesar, " when one of the 
chiefs declares that he will be the leader of such an 
expedition, and calls on those who are willing to 
follow him to come forward, — all who approve of 

A A 4 

8G0 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

the cause and the man rise up and promise their 
assistance." 1 

The transaction is here described as taking place 
in the great council of the nation ; in the presence, 
therefore, of the regularly constituted authorities of 
the country. " If," says Tacitus, " the State in which 
the Comitatus has been formed grows torpid in the 
idleness of a lengthened peace, most of the noble 
youths voluntarily go to those nations which are 
carrying on war, both because repose is disagreeable 
to the German nation, and because a great Comitatus 
can only be maintained by war and rapine." 2 We 
have here an unmistakable recognition of the fact 
that the Comitatus was subject to the control of 
the regular government, and could only carry on its 
operations against the declared enemies of the state. 

The next point in connection with this inquiry 
concerns the leaders of these voluntary corps. Who 
had the right of forming a Comitatus ? According 
to Eichhorn and Savigny, it was the exclusive privi- 
lege of the hereditary nobles ; others confine it to the 
magistrates of the gaus. The former of these sup- 
positions is entirely inconsistent with the general 
views we have taken of the political system of the 
Germans. Nor can we agree with Waitz and Roth, 
in confining the privilege to the chiefs of the gau. 
The language of Tacitus does not warrant such a 
limitation. 3 No doubt the right of keeping a mili- 

1 Caes. Bell. Gall. vi. 23. 2 Tac. Germ. xiv. 

3 Tac. AnnaL xi. 16, 17. : " Nee patrem (Flaviurn) rubori, 
quod ficlem adversus Romanos volentibus Germanis sumptam, 


tary retinue was most frequently exercised by them, 
but there is no need to restrict it to any single class. 
Where a nobility existed, the Comitatus might be 
formed by an eminent member of that order. Nor 
would the privilege be denied to any freeman dis- 
tinguished for his military talents, and possessed of 
sufficient means to undertake so heavy a responsibility. 
But by whomsoever these military retinues were 
formed, they could only act under the authority of 
the general government. 

A right understanding of the passages above quoted 
is of the greatest importance, because their misinter- 
pretation by some of the most eminent of modern 
historians has been the means of introducing con- 
siderable difficulty and confusion into the history of 
the middle ages. It is on the supposed authority of 
these passages and one of the formulae of Marculf, that 
the feudal system, which was the gradual growth of 
ages, and was not completely established before the 8th 
or 9th century, has been introduced full-blown into the 
5th and 6th. 1 Eichhorn and Savigny suppose that 
the greater number of the conquests made by the Ger- 
mans were not affairs of the community at all, but 
made by the nobles at the head of their free com- 
panies. In their opinion, those who bound themselves 

nunquam omisisset." Italicus had been objected to by some Ger- 
mans, on the ground that his father had fought on the side of 
the Romans: "contra patriam ac Deos penates." It would ap- 
pear, from this passage, that even individual chiefs had to obtain 
leave before they could enter a foreign service. 

1 Marculfi Formulae (ap. Baluz. Capit. Reg. Franc, torn. ii.). 

362 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

to a particular leader in the manner before described 
were relieved from the military obligations to the 
state ; nor was the leader himself in any way respon- 
sible to the government for the service on which he 
employed his free-company. " Many German nations," 
says Eichhorn, " owe their very origin to a body of 
this kind, which had followed its noble leader in some 
adventurous campaign." * The nobles in their turn 
he represents as forming the Comitatus of the king ; 
and thus it needed but the possession of land, which 
was soon supplied by the conquest of Gaul, to make 
the feudal system as complete under Clovis, as under 
William the Norman after the conquest of England. 

The impossibility of reconciling such a theory with 
the political institutions of the Franks at that early 
period, will become more and more evident as we pro- 
ceed ; the perception of the difficulties to which it 
has given rise has been the principal incitement 
to several modern writers to reconsider the whole 
subject. The theory of Eichhorn has been abun- 
dantly proved to run counter to the whole tenour of 
history. Neither Gregory of Tours nor the com- 
pilers of the Salic law knew anything of a Frankish 
nobility at all, nor of any class of men possessing 
such extraordinary powers as have been by some as- 
cribed to them — powers which, if exercised in the 
unshackled manner supposed, would render almost 
every form of government impossible. The effect of 

1 Eichhorn, Rechtsgesch. des Adels, sec. 14. p. 62. — sec. 16. 
p. 75. 

Chap. VII.] THE LEUDES. 363 

such anomalous authority, where it did exist, is strik- 
ingly set forth in Caesar's Gallic War. 1 

There were, as we have said, two kinds of military 
expeditions: that in which the whole nation moved un- 
der its regularly appointed leaders for the acquisition 
of booty or territory; and that in which the magistrate 
of the gau or other distinguished personage collected 
a free company or small army under his command, 
and led it against the enemies of his country. The 
operations of the Comitatus were, generally speak- 
ing, of no great moment, and had plunder for their 
principal object ; while all the more important mili- 
tary movements, such as retreat before a superior 
enemy, or the conquest of new settlements, were 
undertaken by the whole people in arms, of which 
the Comitatus formed but an integral part. 

No point in the history of the Frankish settlement 
in Gaul has been more frequently discussed without 
any satisfactory result than the meaning of the word 
Leudes, which is applied to a portion of the Frankish 
army. The theory respecting the Leudes hitherto 
almost universally received is that of Montesquieu and 
Eichhorn. 2 These writers place the chief difference 
between the position of the Franks in Gaul before 
and after the conquests of Clovis in this, that in the 
former period the Frankish settlers took possession of 
the land by lot and in their own right ; while in the 
latter, all land not occupied by the Romance popula- 

i Bell. Gall. i. 17, 18. 

2 Montesquieu, Esp. des Lois, ch. xvi. 

364 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

tion became crown property, and was arbitrarily 
apportioned to his followers by the king. By receiv- 
ing property of this nature, a person entered, as they 
suppose, into a new and specific relation to the 
sovereign, essentially differing from that in which all 
freemen stood to the head of the state. This rela- 
tion was formed by receiving a grant of land, taking 
an oath of fealty to the king, and contracting a spe- 
cial obligation to serve him in his wars. Thus in 
Neustria, Aquitaine, and Burgundy, according to this 
theory, where all that was taken from the provincial 
inhabitants became crown property, the greater por- 
tion of the Frankish settlers were Leudes : while in 
Austrasia, in which lay the earlier acquisitions of the 
Franks, the number of this class was very limited. 
Of the Leudes, again, there was a select number called 
Antrustiones, distinguished probably by the larger 
amount of land they had received, and a closer per- 
sonal relation to the king. These are regarded by 
Eichhorn and Savigny as the successors of the ancient 
nobility, from whom they inherited the sole right of 
leading a Comitatus l (Arimannia), exemption from 

1 The well-rounded theory of the Arimannia (comitatus) of 
the Antrustiones is deduced from a single and doubtful passage 
in the Formul. of Marculf, which relates to the oath of fealty 
taken by the Antrustio : " De Regis Antrustione. Rectum est ut 
qui nobis fidem pollicentur inlcesam, nostro tueantur auxilio, 
Et quia ille fldelis, Deo propitio, noster veniens ibi in palatio 
nostro una cum Arimannia sua in manu nostra trustem et fideli- 
tatem nobis visus est conjurasse," &c. In the first place we 
must mention that the reading of the MSS. is arma, which 
Pithon, taking umbrnge at the grammatical error, changed to 


taxes, and a general superiority in personal dignity 
and influence over the simple freeman. The difficulty 
of reconciling the exclusive rights and duties of the 
Leudes with the state of things which existed in the 
subsequent Carlovingian period, is evaded by an 
alleged extension by Charlemagne of the oath of fealty 
— originally taken by the Leudes alone — to the 
entire population of the empire. 

The very slight historical foundation on which this 
theory rests, its incompatibility with innumerable pas- 
sages in history of an opposite tendency, have led the 
acute and learned M. Roth and others to deny alto- 
gether the existence of the Leudes as a peculiar class. 1 
According to Roth, the liability to serve the king in 
war, which has been attributed exclusively to them, 
was common to all freemen from the very beginning of 
the monarchy. The word Leudes, in his opinion, is 
strictly synonymous with "Fideles" and is used sim- 
ply of all subjects in their military relation to the king. 
It gives no slight countenance to this novel view of the 
matter, that the word Leudes, the name of a class by 
which, in the commonly received theory, almost all 
wars were carried on, and all the more important con- 

Arimannia, — a mere conjecture — " too iceak a peg" says Loebell, 
11 to hang a whole theory upon." Marculf, i. 18. Vid. Loebell, 

p. 161. 

1 The word Leudes is used in very different senses. Fredegar 
uses it for laymen, in contrast with Ecclesiastici ; and when the 
author of the Gesta Fran cor. has to translate it, he does so by 
Duces and Principes. Conf. Roth, Gesch. des Beneficialwesens. 
Erlangen, 1850. 

366 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VII. 

quests made, occurs only three times in the History 
of Gregory of Tours. The peculiar obligations, too, 
erroneously attributed to the Leudes exclusively, — 
viz., the oath of fealty, and liability to serve the 
king in Avar, — may be clearly proved to have been 

The position and privileges of the Antrustiones are 
better established ; they answer on the one side to 
the Comites of Tacitus, and on the other to the Vassi 
of the Carlovingian period. They were the constant 
attendants of the monarch, and derived from this 
close relation a high degree of personal consideration. 
We find their lives protected in the Salic law by a 
triple weregeld ; and though in the earlier part of the 
Merovingian period they were distinguished from 
other freemen only by their relation to the king (a 
relation into which any man might hope to enter), 
yet it is from them that the great feudal and 
territorial aristocracy was gradually developed. 

According to the view now given of the con- 
stitution of the Frankish army, we must regard the 
conquest of Gaul as having been made, not by bands 
of freebooters under robber chieftains, nor even by 
the king at the head of a particular class of his sub- 
jects, called Leudes, but by the whole Sa.lian tribe 
under their hereditary monarch, who marched at 
their head, surrounded by a devoted train of warlike 

Each division of the army was led by a gau 
magistrate, who arranged his men according to their 
families, that the presence of those whom they held 


clearest might nerve their arm and sustain their 
courage in the hour of danger. And here and there 
was seen a company of eager and impetuous warriors, 
formed with the consent of the nation, but marching 
under a chosen leader of their own, to whom they 
had in a more special manner devoted their services 
and lives. 





u The fall of the Western Roman Empire," says 
M. Guizot, " presents a most singular phenomenon. 
Not only does the nation fail to support the govern- 
ment in its struggle with the barbarians, but the 
nation, when left to itself, makes no attempt at 
resistance on its own account ; nay more, there is 
nothing in this long struggle which reveals to us that 
any nation exists." 

Almost the sole exception to this remark is found 
in the famous " Complaint of the Britons," recorded 
by the venerable Bede, in which they lament that 
" the barbarians drove them into the sea, and the sea 
drove them back again upon the barbarians." 

M. Guizot attributes this extraordinary absence of 
that national spirit — which has often enabled a na- 
tion weak in numbers and resources to withstand the 
most powerful conquerors — to the destruction of 
the middle classes in the Municipia, by the ruinous 
exactions made from them to supply the necessities 
of the sinking empire. In the better days of Rome 


the office of Decurion in the municipal towns of Italy 
and Gaul was coveted as an honourable distinction, 
and the community was only taxed for its own ad- 
vantage. Under Diocletian, however, a system of 
taxation was introduced, the sole object of which was 
to procure money for the emperor, an object which 
was pursued with an utter disregard of consequences. 

When an impoverished municipium was unable 
to furnish the appointed sum, the Curice, which in- 
cluded all the middle classes and their decurion, were 
made answerable for the deficit with their private 
fortunes. Nor was there any escape from this crush- 
ing responsibility. Every man whose estate exceeded 
twenty-five arpents was a member of the Curia ; and 
what rendered the weight of the obligation heavier 
and more vexatious by placing it on fewer shoulders, 
was, that all the clergy and the civil and military 
functionaries were exempt. The miserable victims of 
imperial avarice sought refuge by thousands in the 
Church ; and it was found necessary to exclude the 
possessors of property from every office which brought 
exemption with it. 

The fearful condition into which the middle classes 
were brought, by this selfish and cruel policy, is set 
forth in vivid but not exaggerated colours by Sal- 
vianus. " Robbed and tormented by bad and cruel 
judges, they are compelled to become bagaadce (bri- 
gands), and thus their own misery is charged upon 
themselves ; we impute to them what we ourselves 
have done. We call those rebels and abandoned 
men whom we have driven into crime ; . . . . but 


370 THE FKANKS. [Chap. VIII. 

what else could those unhappy people do who suffer 
under the frequent, nay unceasing, exactions of 
the state ? over whom a terrible and interminable 
proscription is ever impending, — who desert their 
dwellings that they may not be tortured in their 
own homes, — who seek exile that they may avoid 
punishment ?" 

Besides the very influential cause of apathy above 
described, on the part of the provincial inhabitants of 
Gaul, we must not forget the emasculating effect of 
Roman rule on all the nations subject to it. This 
effect was produced partly by the systematic efforts 
of the Romans to depress, and, as far as possible, to 
root out the national feelings of those whom they sub- 
dued ; and partly, also, by the inveterate habit the 
provincials had acquired of looking for protection to 
the Roman legions, rather than to themselves. The 
same phenomena occur in Gaul as in Britain : and 
the Gauls were as little able to resist the incursions 
of the Franks, as the Britons those of the Scots or 
Saxons. Long dependence — the habit of unmurmur- 
ing or at least unresisting, submission to the most 
odious tyranny — the natural aptitude of their race 
for vicious and enervating refinements x (the effects of 
which are always worse in proportion as those who 
adopt them are less civilised), all these causes com- 
bined to bring the Gauls into that despicable condi- 

1 Tacitus (Agricolre Vita, c. xxi.), speaking of the Britons, 
says: " Paullatimqne discessum ad delinirnenta vitiorum, por- 
ticus et balnea, et conviviorum elegantiam : idque apud imperitos 
i humanitas % vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset." 


tion in which independence is an intolerable burden. 
The Franks, in the fresh energy of their nascent power, 
were scarcely more in want of subjects to command, 
than the Gallo-Romans of masters to obey. 

What has been said, may perhaps suffice to account 
for the uncomplaining submissiveness with which the 
Frankish conquerors were received in Gaul ; though 
there are many other causes of the same tendency, 
which will be considered in another chapter. We 
have now to account for a phenomenon of an opposite 
kind, viz., the influence and power which the con- 
quered Romans acquired over, or rather among, the 
conquerors. In considering this point, we must not 
forget the effect of mere numbers, in which the 
Romance inhabitants had the advantage throughout 
the whole of Western Gaul. They had, moreover, 
what was of far greater importance, the traditions of 
Roman glory, settled institutions, habits of business, a 
well developed language, and, above all, they had the 
Christian religion. Against the contempt with which 
the Franks regarded them as conquered, and easily 
conquered dependants, as weak and unwarlike slaves of 
luxury, their minds were sustained by the conscious 
superiority of civilised men over barbarians, of the 
learned over the ignorant, of Christians over heathens. 
As long as it was a question of martial spirit and bodily 
strength, so long the Frank was the superior; but as 
soon as a more settled state of things succeeded, and 
the provinces which had been conquered had to be 
governed, and the wealth which had been acquired to 
be enjoyed ; then, the mental power, the extended 

B B 2 


views, the knowledge of affairs, and the thousand 
trifling arts of cheering and adorning life, which the 
Romans possessed, asserted their value and found a 
field for their display. 

In the collision of minds which followed the conflict 
of arms, the weaker and less disciplined were obliged 
to yield ; and here the advantage was all on the side of 
the Romans. Nor could the issue of the struggle be- 
tween Christianity and heathenism, — between a form 
(though an imperfectly developed and corrupted one) 
of Divine truth and human error, remain for any long 
time doubtful. Clovis had little difficulty in defeating 
the Gallo-Roman armies, but he had no force to bring 
against the Christian priesthood and the strongholds 
of the Christian Church. The high social position, 
the learning and personal dignity of its ministers, 
its magnificent temples and splendid ritual, were not 
opposed by any equivalent forces on the other side. 
The vantage ground which the Roman soldier had 
lost in the battle-field, was in some degree recovered 
by the Roman priest, when he brought the conqueror 
into the pale of a Church to whose highest offices the 
lowest of the conquered might aspire. Nor was the 
victory of Clovis over Syagrius at Soissons more 
complete or more lasting in its effects, than that of 
the Romans over Clovis at his baptism — a victory 
proclaimed by St. Remi at the font in the well- 
known words, "bow the neck, Sicambrian." 1 

This brief outline of the state of Gaul at the period 

1 " Mitis depone colla Sicamber ! " 


of the Frankish conquest may assist us to understand 
the mode in which the settlement of the Franks was 
made ; and how the political institutions which have 
had so great an effect in determining the character 
and fate of Europe were gradually developed by the 
joint efforts and under the mutual influences of the 
two races. 

The prevailing views on these subjects are in ac- 
cordance with the error already mentioned, of refer- 
ring to the fifth century a state of things known 
under the name of feudalism which did not exist 
before the eighth and ninth. 

According to those writers who consider the con- 
quest of Gaul to have been made by Clovis, not at 
the head of the Salian nation at large, but of a class 
of military dependants called Leudes, the conquered 
territory was taken possession of without the slightest 
regard to the rights of the previous owners ; and that 
too, not in the name, or for the benefit, of the whole 
nation, but as private booty of the royal vassals. 
The Romans, they suppose, were indeed allowed, 
or rather compelled, to remain in their own dwell- 
ings, and to continue the cultivation of the fields ; 
but no longer for their own advantage. They were, 
in short, according to this view of the matter, de- 
prived of all civil rights, and degraded almost to the 
condition of serfs. 

The widely different account which we have given 
of the military and social constitution of the Franks 
in their original seats, justifies and indeed necessitates 
a different view of their settlement in Gaul. 

374 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VIII. 

"It is not true," says Montesquieu, "that the 
Franks, on their entrance into Gaul, occupied all 
the landed estates in the country, to make fiefs of 
them. Some writers have thought so, because towards 
the end of the second dynasty they see that all the 
land had become fiefs." l And again he says : " The 
conclusion which it has been attempted to draw, that 
the barbarians made a general regulation to establish 
everywhere the feudal tenure of land, is no less false 
than the premises. If, at a time when the fiefs were 
amovible, all the land had consisted of fiefs, and all 
the men in the kingdom of vassals, or their dependent 
serfs ; then, since he who has the property has the 
power, the king, who from time to time disposed of 
the fiefs (i. e. of the only existing property), would 
have possessed an authority as great as that of the 
Sultan of Turkey, — a supposition which overthrows 
all history." 

The gist of the matter is admirably set forth in 
the foregoing passage. The upholders of the hypo- 
thesis of which Montesquieu attempts to show the 
vanity, are unable to prove what is sufficient for 
their purpose without proving a great deal too much; 
viz., the establishment of the feudal system in its 
full integrity before the end of the fifth century, — 
a conclusion which cannot be maintained. 

Yet so general is the belief in the Vandalic cruelty 
of the conquerors of Gaul, and the degraded position 
in which the provincial population stood to their bar- 
barian masters, that while nobles of France have 

1 Montesquieu, Esp. des Lois, lib. xxx. c. v. 


been proud to trace their descent from Frankish 
warriors, the democratic writers of the same country 
have represented the French revolution as an at- 
tempt on the part of the Celts to regain the freedom 
of which Clovis and his German followers once de- 
prived them ! x 

This generally received opinion respecting the 
Frankish settlement in Gaul seems to be chiefly 
founded on arguments derived — 

1st. From the arbitrary treatment which the pro- 
vincial population in other parts of the dismembered 
Roman empire received at the hands of their German 

2nd. From the manner in which the Franks them- 
selves appear to have acted in their first settlement 
in Gaul (before the age of Clovis), in the ancient Salic 

3rd. From the Salic law, in which the life of a 
Roman is protected by a lower weregeld than that 
of a Frankish freeman. 

With respect to the analogy drawn from the practice 
of the Vandals and the Ostrogoths in Italy, there is 
no lack of reasons for rejecting it as quite inapplicable 
to the conquest of Gaul by Clovis. Apt and eager as 
were the Gauls, when once their fitful ferocity had been 
tamed by the blows of Caesar, to ape the manners and 
vices of their Roman models, they neither had had 
time nor means to reach that fearful depth of corrup- 
tion and degradation in which the Italians had been 

1 Thierry, Eugene Sue, and others. 

b d 4 

376 THE FKANKS. [Chap. VIIL 

sunk for ages ; and in so far they merited and ex- 
perienced a less degree of contempt at the hands of 
their conquerors. Again, the national antipathy 
between Goths or Tandals and Romans was exagge- 
rated by the theological odium of Catholics and 
Arians ; while a common creed, of which the con- 
quered were the interpreters and priests, became a 
powerful bond of union between Clovis, " the eldest 
son of the Church," and his provincial subjects. 

Nor can we, in the next place, safely draw con- 
clusions as to the fate of the Gallic provinces sub- 
dued by Clovis, from the cruel oppression to which 
the original inhabitants of the old Salian lands in 
the Delta of the Rhine were subjected. 

The conquest of Gaul by the Franks was not made 
all at once, as we have seen, but by successive stages; 
and different portions of the country were taken 
possession of on different terms. In the Batavian 
Islands, the Salians do appear indeed to have paid 
very little regard to " vested interests." The harsh 
treatment which the provincial population met with 
in this country is abundantly proved by the fact 
that heathenism not only existed in Toxandria and 
Brabant l as late as the sixth century, but was actu- 

1 BotJis Benejicialw. p. 66.: " Eleutherii I. 20- Feb. 3. 187. 
Congregates Senioribus populi tribunus Scandiniensis cum omni 
multitudine paganorum decrevit ut ornnes tam nobiles quatn 
ignobiles Christianas religionis cultores Tornacensi urbe ejiceren- 
tur, et de suis possessionibus omnino privarentur." In Toxandria 
and Brabant the traces of heathenism were found as late as the 
middle of the eighth century, when many inhabitants of the Ar* 
dennes were converted to Christianity. 


ally predominant, a fact which implies the utter 
degradation of the Christian inhabitants. 

But during the period between the earliest and 
latest conquest of the Franks in Gaul, many circum- 
stances combined to lessen the animosity between the 
two nations, and to bring them nearer to one another. 
When Clovis became chief of his tribe, the Salians 
and Gallo-Romans were no longer strangers ; they 
had lived in near neighbourhood, though in mutual 
independence, for a long series of years, and had 
doubtless exercised a mutual influence. We find 
them fighting on the same side against the Huns, at 
the great battle of Chalons. Childeric, the father of 
Clovis, served many campaigns under the Romans, 
and when he was expelled for his vices by his 
Salian subjects, the latter did not disdain to transfer 
their allegiance to the Roman Syagrius ; a fact which 
speaks very strongly in favour of the existence of a 
good understanding between the two peoples. 

The very character of the crafty and politic Clovis, 
— his conversion to Catholic Christianity, — the de- 
voted respect he paid to the Roman priesthood, and 
his joyful acceptance of Roman titles and insignia, — 
seem to point the same way, and to prove that he, 
at least, felt no hatred against the provincials, and 
was far from wishing to alienate their affections, or 
to render them comparatively useless to himself by 
despoiling them of their property. It was not his 
object to destroy them, but to rule over them as the 
successor of their Roman lords. Nor did any neces- 
sity exist to compel him to the impolicy of general 

378 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VIII. 

confiscation or forced partition of the land ; measures 
which would have rendered his conquest far more 
difficult, less secure, and less advantageous. A suffi- 
cient quantity of land for his own wants, and for the 
liberal reward of his followers, accrued to him from 
other sources. 

In the first place, he became possessed of all the 
confiscated lands of those who had resisted him, 
whether they survived or not. He may also have 
received portions of land from the wealthier Romans, 
as a sort of peace offering ; which they could well 
afford to pay, since they were relieved from the enor- 
mous exactions of imperial tyranny. 

Secondly, he had an undisputed claim to all lands 
not actually in private possession x ; and lastly, to 
the revenues, the tolls, the patronage in Church and 
State, the rights, claims, and privileges, in short, of 
whatever kind, which had belonged to the former 

The land which fell in this manner to the royal 
fiscus, was taken possession of in the name of the 
king ; and not, like the Batavian Islands, by the com- 
munity at large, with a view to equal partition. The 
settlement was made by royal decree or permission ; 
and the grants of land with which the king endowed 
such as he deemed worthy were made, in Merovingian 
times at least, in full and free possession. 

In this important respect, therefore, the free and 
unconditional gifts of Clovis and his race differed 

i Roth's Beneficiahv. pp. 68. 70. 73. The Formulas Mareulfi 
(of the year 660 a.d.) relate only to hereditary grants. 


materially from the Bencficia of Carlovingian times, 
with which they have been so generally confounded. 
The estate which had been originally granted to a 
warrior, as a reward for his services, or as his share 
in the booty, was allowed to pass to a woman or a 
monk, from whom no military service could possibly 
be exacted. 1 The Salian Frank of Picardy and Flan- 
ders — which countries were taken possession of by the 
people at large, without the intervention of the king 
— stood in exactly the same relation to the monarch 
as the Salian in Aquitaine or on the Seine — where, 
according to some writers, all the grants were made 
on strictly feudal conditions. 

But of all the arguments brought forward to prove 
the degradation of the Romans, the weightiest are 
derived from the fact that, in the Salic law, a lower 
weregeld is set upon the lives and limbs of a pro- 
vincial than upon those of the Frankish ingenitus. 

The origin of this marked distinction has been 
sought in various directions. To some writers the 
lower weregeld is a sign of positive loss of freedom, 
and of the right of holding landed property. Others 
see in it chiefly the pride of the conquerors and 
the humiliation of the vanquished, whose noblest 
freeman was degraded to the level of the Frankish 
litus, by having his person and life valued at the 
same price. None of these views are satisfactory, or 
even free from insurmountable objections. The very 
fact that the Roman had a weregeld set upon him at 

1 Roth's Beneficialw. b. iii. p. 203. 

380 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VIII. 

all is a proof of freedom; because it was a composition 
for his right of seeking vengeance when injured in 
his person and family ; a right which, according to 
the German notions of honour, none but the free- 
born man could possess. It is true that the litus 
and the slave had a weregeld too, the former as high 
as that of the free Roman, but in this case the fine 
was paid to the master, and not to the actual suf- 
ferers ; and was nothing more than a compensation 
for injured property} The practice of claiming com- 
pensation for every resignation of the sacred right to 
vengeance was peculiar to the Germans, and was not 
only adhered to by thein in their new settlements, 
but communicated to the Romans. The latter, we 
know, were governed by their own code of laws in all 
matters where only Romans were concerned ; but as 
one of the parties in a dispute must often have 
been a Frank, it was absolutely necessary that they 
should meet on some common ground, — that com- 
mon ground was the weregeld, which made the pro- 
vincial master of his own life and limb, and gave him 
the choice of vengeance or compensation, whenever 
his rights were invaded. 

That the sum by which his right of revenge was 
bought off was less in the case of a Roman than of a 
Frank, is hardly to be wondered at. It would have 
denoted a degree of humility which few men under 
such circumstances (and certainly not the Franks) 

1 Lex Sal. Pact. x. 1. : et Si quis servum \ut cavallum veljumen- 
tum furaverit," &c. This passnge reminds one of many a trans- 
atlantic advertisement* 


would possess, to think no more highly of themselves 
than of the people in whose land they had settled 
down by force of arms. They did not, and could not, 
think the life of any Roman of equal value with that 
of a Frankish ingenuus. Without therefore depriving 
the Roman of his freedom, they expressed their sense 
of the inferiority of his origin by giving him a lower 
weregeld. An analogous case may be seen in the 
laws of the Burgundians, who had a nobility above 
the freeman, where the weregeld of the noble is half 
as large again as that of the mediocris or ordinary 
ingenims. In the Ripuarian laws the weregeld of a 
free Burgundian or other German was lower than 
that of a Frank 1 ; by which nothing more could be 
expressed than national self-consciousness and pride. 
The very variety of the hypotheses which have 
been formed, regarding the relative position of the 
two races to one another in Gaul, is a proof how sin- 
gular and anomalous the state of that country was 
after the settlement of the Franks. The institutions 
and laws which the Germans had brought with them, 
and to which they were strongly attached, came into 
close contact with those of the Romans, by which 
alone the provincial population could be governed. 
The two systems existed side by side, and could hardly 
avoid interfering with each other's action and causing 
conflict and disorder. We must, however, take care 

1 Roth's Beneficialw. pp. 94, 95. Waitz (das alte Salische Recht, 
p. 102.) lays great stress on the fact that the Salic Laws were pub- 
lished before the time of Clovis ; otherwise he thinks they would 
have been different as regards the position of the provincials. 

382 THE PRANKS. [Chap. VIII. 

not to mistake the practice of individuals for insti- 
tutions of the state, or breaches of the law for 
the law itself. It is doubtless true that the Ro- 
mance population did suffer deeply in their property, 
their rights, and even their persons, from the law- 
less encroachments of the barbarians, flushed as 
they were with victory, and conscious of superior 
strength and courage. It could not be otherwise, 
and especially in those parts of the country which, 
from their remoteness, were in a great measure 
withdrawn from the surveillance of the central 
government. The poorer and weaker classes, who 
have in all ages had so much to endure from those 
on whom they depend, were almost exclusively com- 
posed of Gallo-Romans. Those therefore who know 
how difficult it is, for the strongest government, and 
the most equal laws, to protect the weak and timid 
from the strong and proud, will readily imagine what 
must have taken place in an era such as that of 
Clovis, and in a country on whose vitals a Chilperic 
and a Fredegunda, with all the ruthless agents of their 
avarice and cruelty, were allowed to prey. Many a 
provincial doubtless was despoiled of his property, 
denied his rights, injured in his person and his 
honour by the Franks ; but it was done, not according 
to the law, but in spite of it, when the law was weak 
and retribution lame. 

We should never gain much knowledge of con- 
stitutional or personal law in England or Scotland, 
from a history of the border forays ; nor must we 
form our theories, respecting the settlement in Gaul, 


from the numerous instances of lawless oppression 
which we meet with in the Frankish annals. 

So far, indeed, were the Gallo-Romans from being 
reduced in the mass to an almost servile condition, 
that we find them retaining their property, their 
peculiar laws, customs, language, and dress. The 
municipal constitutions of their towns also remained 
in most respects as they had been under the empire, 
and gave the inhabitants a very considerable degree 
of self-government. The independence of feeling and 
action prevalent in the municipia is attested by the 
fact that one of them made a successful resistance to 
Clovis ; and that, when at a later period their fears 
had subsided and their spirit returned, they even 
ventured to make war upon one another on their own 
account, as in the case of Blois and Orleans, which 
joined in an attack upon Dunois. 1 

"Whatever the Romance population may have suf- 
fered immediately after the conquest, their lot was 
gradually improved in succeeding times. We have 
already pointed out the many advantages which 
the provincials enjoyed in their struggle with the 
less cultivated Franks, and the means they possessed 
of mingling respect with the contempt with which 
their conquerors were apt to regard them. And 
the involuntary feeling of respect was more real 
and more enduring of the two; and enabled the 
Romans after no long time to raise themselves in the 
social scale. Accordingly we find them not only 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 2. Loebell's Gregor. von Tours, p. 139> 

384 THE FRANKS. [Chap. VIII. 

occupying the most important offices in the State as 
well as in the Church, — which was exclusively their 
own, — but acting as intimate friends and counsellors 
of the king, and making themselves notorious for 
their vast possessions ; as, for example, in the case of 
Gregory of Tours himself, Desiderius of Auxerre, and 
Duke Lupus of Champagne. 1 

But what speaks more strongly than anything else 
for the belief in a gradual approach to equality in the 
position of Franks and Gallo-Romans is the indispu- 
table fact that the office of count of a gau, and general 
of an army, was frequently held by a Roman. In 
Auvergne and Tours, indeed, the majority of the 
counts were provincials. This circumstance is at the 
same time an additional argument against the com- 
mon hypothesis that the army of Clovis and his suc- 
cessors was composed, like that of the Vandals and 
Goths, exclusively of Germans. For we can hardly 
bring ourselves to believe that a Roman — and that 
too not in one instance, but frequently — would be 
placed in the position of commander of an army, from 
which his countrymen were excluded as a degraded 
and inferior class. 2 

And if we can find no sufficient reason for taking 
the common view of the treatment which the Gauls 
received, even with respect to those parts of Gaul 
where the Frankish settlers were most numerous, 

1 Roth, p. 81. Bishop Desiderius of Auxerre manumitted 
2000 serfs, and gave them the land which they had previously oc- 
cupied as his bondsmen. Other Eoman bishops left whole counties 
in their wills. 

2 Greg. Tur.iv. 13. 42., v. 37. 48., viii. 18. 30. 


such a theory must be still less tenable in districts 
such as Auvergne and Tours, where the conquerors 
were few in number and scattered through the coun- 
try. And we have no indication that the provincial 
in these places stood in any different relation to the 
general government than the provincial of Metz or 

Had the fate of the Roman inhabitant indeed 
been so hard, or nearly so hard, as is generally sup- 
posed, it would be most remarkable that in the long 
history of Gregory of Tours, himself a Roman, there 
should not be the slightest complaint or hint of the in- 
justice to which his countrymen were subject ; that his 
pages should not bear a single trace of a struggle 
between the hostile nationalities. We know that 
Gregory and others of his class were bold enough in 
the defence of their rights, even in the presence of 
the Merovingian kings ; and can we believe that they 
would pass over the spoliation and degradation of 
their beloved countrymen without one word of pro- 
test or even of record ? 


386 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 


Period of Transition from Merovingian to 
Carlovingian Institutions. 

In a former chapter we endeavoured to describe 
the national character and institutions of the Franks 
before their entrance into Gaul, while they were as 
yet uninfluenced by the original peculiarities and the 
superinduced Koman civilisation of the conquered 

We saw reason to regard the Franks as a German 
tribe of freemen possessing equal rights, and, as far 
as may be, equal property. We found them governing 
and judging themselves in the various divisions and 
subdivisions of their nation by free assemblies, but 
differing from some other German tribes in this, 
that they entrusted the executive authority to a king 
(elected from one family) of limited but considerable 
power. We considered it probable that the king, had 
the privilege of appointing counts for the government 
of the gaus or cantons ; and he claimed from his sub- 
jects an universal oath of allegiance and gratuitous 
service in time of war. We saw that the Frankish 
system both civil and military was founded on the 

Chap. IX.] GENERAL VIEWS. 387 

equal rights and common duties of all freemen; and 
that these privileges and obligations were essentially 
personal, and not, as in a subsequent period, attached 
to the possession of property. In disagreement with 
writers of very high authority, we expressed our 
belief that no order of nobility or any privileged 
class of soldiers under the name of Leudes existed 
among the Franks, and that freemen were only distin- 
guished from one another by the authority of office — 
as in the case of the count, or, by the especial favour 
and protection of the king, in the case of the An- 
trustio — to which latter distinction not only every 
freeman, but even bondsmen might aspire. 

It will be our object in the present chapter to 
show whence the widely differing institutions took 
their rise which we find existing in Carlovingian 
times, and which, though in process of formation 
under the Merovingian Dynasty, first make their ap- 
pearance in a compact and established form in the 
time of Carl Martel and his great successor. How is 
it that when the political institutions of the Franks 
appear again through the retreating mists of historical 
oblivion, their shape and character are so materially 
changed ? Where are the small but free and inde- 
pendent landholders who once formed the strength 
marrow of the State ? How is it that every man 
seems to hold all that he has — to live and breathe, 
as it were, at the will of another? Whence come 
these mighty seigniors or feudal lords — these proud 
and princely churchmen — these turbulent and mu- 
tinous counts, who with their dependent vassals 

c c 2 

388 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX* 

destroyed the old German freedom, and shook into 
ruins the throne of the feeble posterity of Clovis? 
Those who think they see strong germs of the bene- 
ficial and feudal systems in the Germania of Tacitus, 
and their complete establishment by Clovis, when he 
conquered Gaul and divided it into military fiefs, 
will find an easy answer to these and similar ques- 
tions. To this unnaturally simple mode of solving 
so difficult a question, a careful study of the sources 
and the ablest commentators upon them have pre- 
vented our assenting, and have at the same time 
given us the means of tracing the gradual transition 
from the early German to the Merovingian and from 
the Merovingian to the Carlovingian constitutions; 
in which last the system of Beneficia and the Seig- 
niorship played so prominent a part. 

This transition is nowhere sudden or violent. 
Different as they are, the complicated system of the 
later Carlovingians was developed by a slow and 
regular process from the institutions which the 
Franks brought with them into Gaul. The extent 
and importance, however, of the changes which took 
place — more particularly in the gradation of social 
rank and the tenure of landed property — imply the 
long continued operation of very powerful agents. 
Among these we may reckon : — 

1st. The wealth and eternal civilisation of the 
Romanized population of Gaul. 

2nd. The influence of the Catholic Church and its 

3rd. Some very ancient peculiarities in the po- 
litical and social system of the Gauls themselves. 


One of the most immediate and striking changes 
produced by Roman influence was a rapid increase in 
the power of the Prankish king. It would have been 
easy to foresee how greatly his position must be af- 
fected by the conquest of Gaul. The nature of the 
German monarchy has already been explained. The 
very mode in which the elevation of the Salian mo- 
narch was announced, by placing him on a shield, 
and exposing him to the gaze of the joyful and 
applauding multitude who had elected him, is sig- 
nificant of his true position as the leader, not the 
master, of his people. 1 He had no u libera potestas ; " 
he ruled by persuasion rather than by force 2 ; he 
carried out the laws which the people had enacted, 
and led his subjects in the wars which they themselves 

But the freer the State, in which royalty exists, 
the less necessity is there that its prerogatives should 
be accurately ascertained and circumscribed. The 
encroachments of the German king were warded off, 
not by the written clauses of a paper constitution, 
but by the free institutions by which royalty was 
surrounded, and by the national spirit which kept 
those institutions in healthy and powerful action. 
And hence arises the great difficulty we find in de- 
termining the exact position of the Merovingian 
monarchs. In the Salic law, in which the life of 

1 Tac. Hist. iv. 15. : " . . . iropositusque scuto more gent is et 
sustinentium humeris vibratus, Dux deligitur.'' 

2 Tac. Germ. vii. xi. : " Auctoritate suaclendi magis quam ju- 
bendi potentate." 

c c 3 

390 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

almost every creature, from an ingenuus to a bee, is pro- 
tected by a fine, no penalty of any kind is denounced 
for slaying the king ; nor is any reference made to 
the limits of the royal prerogative. Yet there is 
no doubt that the penalty of regicide was death, since 
even the smaller offence of infidelitas or Icesa Ma- 
jestas was thus punished in Merovingian times. 

This uncertainty with respect to the limits of the 
royal authority, which was harmless and even sa- 
lutary in a state of liberty, proved to be greatly in 
favour of the unchecked growth of arbitrary power, 
when the natural checks upon it were weakened or 
withdrawn. The position of Clovis too, as the leader 
of a victorious army and the founder of a new 
empire, was eminently favourable to an increase of 
his prerogative. Royalty was almost the only poli- 
tical institution which was not disturbed in its action 
by the rapid change of fortunes through which the 
Frankish nations passed. The rights and powers 
which the deliberative assemblies used to exercise, 
during a period of migration and conquest, naturally 
fell to the executive authority, the vigour of which 
was rather increased than diminished by the change 
of circumstances. Yet, amidst a purely German 
nation, the boldest monarch would soon have learned 
to restrict himself to his legitimate sphere. Even a 
Clovis was king rather in the German than in the 
Roman sense. Even he does not venture to claim 
more than his own share of the common booty 1 , and 

1 Greg. Tur. ii. 27. 


dreads the displeasure of his people when he is urged 
to abandon the superstitions of his forefathers. 

How different Avas the light in which a monarch 
was regarded by the Gauls, who had learned to bow 
with slavish fear and blasphemous adulation, not only 
before emperors unworthy of the human form, but 
before their deputies and the tools and slaves of their 
deputies ! What a contrast must the Eomance pro- 
vincials have presented, when they came, with their 
studied humility and plausible falsehood, into the 
presence of their new master, to the bold bearing of 
the Frankish freeman in the presence of his chief! 
The conquest of Gaul gave to the rude Salian mo- 
narchs a new and very numerous class of subjects, 
whose servile but graceful homage and unreserved 
submission not only flattered the self-love of the 
king and widened the foundations of his throne, but 
led the Franks themselves, by the force of example, 
to regard the royal dignity in a different light. To 
these influences may be added the no slight ones of 
increased wealth and of that external splendour with 
which the Romance population well knew how to 
invest the throne. 

But of all the new allies which aided the Frankish 
kings to exchange the sword of a general and the 
seat of a judge, for a sceptre and a throne, none was 
so omnipresent, so active, or so constant and power- 
ful in its operations as the Roman Church. The 
natural tendency of this institution has, in all ages, 
been towards royal and even despotic authority, both 
on account of the analogy with its own hierarchy, 

c c 4 

392 THE FKANKS. [Chap. IX 

and because the free discussion inseparable from 
popular governments, and the turbulence of party- 
strife, are unfavourable to its secret influence and its 
regular and systematic action. On several occasions 
in the early Frankish history we find the bishops of 
the Church animating the kings to the exercise of 
unusual power. 1 

Under such circumstances, the royal power of the 
Merovingians could not fail to undergo a very rapid 
development after the conquest of Gaul. Gregory of 
Tours represents many of the kings, and especially 
Clotaire and Chilperic, as assuming almost unlimited 
powers, and indulging in the most cruel and arbi- 
trary acts of tyranny. 

So remarkable are many of the cases with which 
he furnishes us, that it seems as if the prceceptib of 
the king could overrule both public law and the most 
sacred private rights. Thus when Andarchius wishes 
to marry the daughter of Ursus, a citizen of Aver- 
num, for her money, and is refused by her father, 
he procures a praeceptio from the king, lays it before 
the judge of the place where the maiden resided, and 
demands that she be immediately given to him in 
marriage. So Pappolenus, after causing the niece of 
Bishop Felix to be dragged from a monastery, in 

1 Greg. Tu?\ ii. 34. : Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, when urging 
the Burgundian king, Gundobald, publicly to renounce the Arian 
heresy, uses the following language : " Tu vero cum sis Rex, et 
a nullo adprehendi formides, seditionem pavescis populi ne Crea- 
torem omnium in publico confitearis. Relinque hanc stultitiam 

. , Tu enim es caput populi, non populus caput tuum." 

Chap. IX.] TAXATION. — TREASON. 393 

which she had taken refuge, marries her against the 
will of her relations by virtue of a royal praBceptio. 1 

In the matter of taxation also, a point in which we 
learn from history that nations have at all times been 
peculiarly sensitive, the actual if not the theoretical 
power of the kings appears to have been very great. 
Chilperic and his detestable wife afflicted their people 
by arbitrary exactions to such a degree as to reduce 
them to starvation and drive them to rebellion. 
Fredegunda herself, when her cruel heart had been 
touched for the moment by the death of her children, 
feels some remorse for the widely-spread misery she 
had caused, and burns the tax register in which the 
victims of her rapacity were noted down. 

The very wide interpretation which was given to 
the word treason (tesa majestas, crimen majestatis, 
infidelitas patriae, infidelitas regni Francorum), and 
the extreme severity with which this offence was 
punished, are trustworthy indications of the height 
to which the royal power had risen. Insults offered 
to the king or his family might be punished with 
death. We read in Gregory of Tours 2 , that the 
Abbot Lupentius was accused by Count Innocentius 
of having uttered " profanum aliquid " against Brun- 
hilda ; and one of the counts in the charge against 
iEoidius of Rheims, is that his letters contained 
several things " de improperiis Brunichildis." 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 47. Ibid. vi. 16. Ibid. viii. 11.: "Regalibus- 
que inunitus praeceptionibus timere parentum distulit minas." 

2 Greg. Tur. v. 26. Ibid. vi. 37. Ibid. x. 19. 

394 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

Another form of treason, which was punished with 
confiscation and death, was that of entering into cor- 
respondence with a foreign enemy. So strict was 
the bond of allegiance which united subjects to their 
king, that not only was it treason to leave the do- 
minions of one Frankish king to settle in those of 
another, but the mere quitting the country without 
permission was a treasonable act, and might be 
punished by confiscation. 1 

Such facts as these and many others that might 
be adduced, such as the violent interference of the 
kings in the course of justice, and the dispensing 
power which they appear on some occasions to have 
exercised, are calculated to inspire the belief that 
their power had become almost despotic. Yet we 
should be wrong in drawing the full conclusion which 
they at first sight seem to warrant. We are consi- 
dering a very anomalous period, in which different 
principles, institutions, and nationalities, were strug- 
gling for existence and mastery, unguided or unre- 
strained by written laws or even by experience and 

The royal power, says Guizot, was " variable et 
dereglee: aujourd'hui immense, demain nulle; souve- 
raine ici, ignoree ailleurs." 2 The juncture, as we 
have seen, was peculiarly favourable to the preten- 
sions of royalty, and the more so because at that time 
no powerful aristocracy existed to resist its encroach- 

i Roth, p. 135. 2 Guizot, Hist. Generate, p. 304. 


We proceed to trace the gradual rise of a class 
unknown to the Franks in the earliest centuries of 
their history, and to which the Salic law contains 
not the slightest reference. We mean the seigniors, 
whose existence and privileges were not fully recog- 
nised or legally guaranteed before the time of the 
Carlovingian mayors. 

And here we are inclined, with Roth, to attribute 
great influence to the Roman civilisation with which 
the Gauls were so thoroughly imbued, and to the 
Catholic Church ; but most of all to certain pecu- 
liarities in the civil institutions of the ancient Gauls 

The warriors of Clovis, under which designation I 
include all free subjects capable of bearing arms (and 
not Leudes only), entered Gaul as freemen, on a foot- 
ing of political equality, bound together by their 
common allegiance to the king, and the necessary 
subordination to the merely official authority of their 
civil governors and military leaders. Very different 
was the state of things which they found in Gaul. 
There existed in that country in the time of Crcsar, 
and no doubt much earlier, a kind of clanship, and a re- 
lation between lord and vassal, unlike anything which 
is spoken of by Tacitus in his Germania. The great 
conqueror of Gaul, who had excellent opportunities 
of becoming acquainted with the constitution of the 
country in which so large a portion of his military 
life was passed, has left us a clear though brief ac- 
count of the Gallic Comitatus. He speaks in more 
than one place of chiefs and generals who, in addition 

396 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

to their regular forces, had followers called devoti or 
soldarii, a body of men devoted by the most solemn 
and irrevocable engagements to the service of their 
leader. " Their condition of life is this, that they 
share all the goods of life with those to whom they 
have devoted themselves. Should any calamity befal 
their chiefs, they either share the same fate, or seek 
a voluntary death ; nor was it ever known in the 
memory of man that one of them had refused to die 
when his patron had been killed." l In another place 
he says, " Throughout the whole of Gaul there are 
only two classes of persons who enjoy any degree of 
rank or distinction ; for the plebs are regarded almost 
in the light of slaves, undertaking nothing of them- 
selves, and sharing in no counsels. Most of them, 
when oppressed by debt, or by heavy taxes, or the 
wrongs inflicted on them by the more powerful, enter 
into a condition of servitude to the nobles, who exer- 
cise the same authority over them as masters over 
their slaves." 2 Cassar is informed by the Gauls, on one 
occasion, that there were private persons in their state 
who exercised great influence over the common people, 
and who, though private persons, had more power 
than the magistrates themselves. 3 One of these was 
Dumnorix, who maintained a large Comitatus at his 
own expense. Orgetorix is represented as having 

1 Ccbs. Bell. Gall. iii. 22. } vii. 40. : " Litavicus cum suis clien- 
tibus, quibus more Gallorum nefas est etiam in extrema fortuna 
deserere patronos, Gergoviam profugit. 

2 Ca3s. B. G. vi. 13. 

3 Cres. B. G. i. 17. Loebell's Gregor von Tours, pp. 83 — 88. 


escaped the punishment of death, which had been 
awarded against him, by bringing his whole clan 
(familiam), to the number of 10,000 men, and all his 
clients and debtors, to the place of trial. These and 
similar passages have been most erroneously consi- 
dered as parallel to the 13th chapter of Tacitus' Ger- 
mania and some passages in the work of Ammianus 
Marcellinus. 1 For where has Tacitus ever hinted at 
the servitude of the German plebs to any class of 
nobles ? or of individuals setting at nought the au- 
thority of the magistrates with an army of dependent 
clients ? The honourable devotion of freemen to a 
king, or a chosen leader, as good subjects or brave 
companions, has nothing in common with the com- 
pelled devotion of the miserable serfs and bankrupts 
of whom Caesar speaks. The similarity between the 
passages thus compared is entirely superficial ; their 
essential difference may be seen on a first perusal. 

The interval between class and class thus early 
existing among the Gauls was rather increased than 
diminished during their long servitude to the Romans. 
The Frankish conquerors saw the wealth of the coun- 
try accumulated in the hands of a few, in contrast 
with general poverty and dependence. And, though 
the presence of the Franks in Gaul could not but 
make some difference to both extremes, yet as the 
Roman proprietors kept the greater part of their pos- 

1 Ammian. Marcellin. xvi. 12. : " Chrodomanus rex Alemman- 
norum — se dedit, comitesque ejus ducenti numero . . . . 
flagitium avbitrati post regem vivere, vel pro rege non niori, si ita 
tulerit casus tradidere se vinciendos." 

398 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

sessions, and continued to rule over their dependants, 
they presented to the eyes of the invaders a spectacle 
of splendour and authority which could not fail to 
awaken a feeling of rivalry. The rich and fortunate 
freeman learned to regard himself as the natural 
superior of his poorer fellow ; while the latter, in his 
turn, became accustomed to the idea of purchasing 
security and sustenance by the sacrifice of indepen- 
dence. The opposing principles which regulated the 
ownership and employment of German and Gallic 
Roman property came into collision, and, as might be 
expected under the circumstances, the worse pre- 
vailed. It became a great object of ambition to 
amass property in land ; and, as it was not easy at 
that period to convert agricultural produce into 
money, this accumulation inevitably led to the main- 
tenance of numerous dependants. The active and 
fortunate became continually richer and more power- 
ful; while the unfortunate, the weak, and foolish, 
grew poorer and feebler : and losing their rights with 
their property, sank into a state of hereditary and 
hopeless dependence. And thus, in the time of Carl 
Martel, we find a state of things formally acknow- 
ledged and established, in which one class of freemen 
are gradually pressed down into the condition of serfs. 
An oligarchy of wealth and office arises, which, in 
still later times, is developed into a nobility of birth ; 
and a graduated scale of authority is formed, ex- 
tending from the monarch to the slave. 

But though the foundations of that semi-feudalism, 
which comes so prominently forward under the 


government of Carl Martel, were laid in the earlier 
part of the Merovingian period, the structure itself 
did not rise so rapidly as is commonly supposed. A 
very convincing argument in favour of this statement 
has been derived from the original meaning of certain 
words which, in later times, denoted the mutual re- 
lation of lordship and dependence. The Vassus or 
Vassallus, which in Carlovingian times signifies ex- 
clusively a freeman in the military retinue of the 
king or other seignior, is used in the Salic and 
Alemannic laws for persons in a state of servitude ; 
and in the former code the Weregeld of the Vassus 
is only thirty solidi. l 

The latter meaning of the term generally prevailed 
in Merovingian times, although two or three isolated 
and doubtful passages have been brought forward in 
which it seems to be used of a dependent freeman. 2 
As soon, of course, as it came into frequent use to 
denote the more honourable relation, the original 
meaning became obsolete. 

A corresponding change may be observed in the ac- 
ceptation of the word seignior (senior), which is used by 
Gregory of Tours to denote any superior in his relation 
to those under his authority. Thus the king is called 

1 Vassus and Vassallus are synonymes (from the diminutive 
Vasaletus is derived the French word Valet). Lex Salica, pact. 
xxxv. (ed. Johan. Merkel ; Berlin, 1850) : " Si quis Vassum 
ad ministerium (quod est horogauo, puella ad ministerium) 
. . . . furaverit aut occiderit cui fuerit adprobatum 1200 
denarios, qui faciunt solidos 30, culpabilis judicetur." Roth, 
p. 368. Lex Aleman. 79. 3. Mon. Germ. 

2 Roth, p. 369. 

400 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

the Senior of his subjects, the count of his pagenses, 
the bishop and abbot of their inferior clergy; and 
even the chief of a band of murderers receives the 
same name. But in the eighth century it begins to 
be used of the king and other powerful men solely in 
their relation to their dependent homines. 1 

A model was presented to the Franks, as we have 
seen, for the formation of private retinues, by the 
great landed proprietors of Gaul, in which country, 
as well as in Korth Britain and other Celtic lands, 
the institutions of clans had long existed. A natural 
impulse was also given to the development of the 
seigniorship by the insecurity of life and property in 
those unsettled times, when the rich were continually 
called upon to retain by force what they had un- 
lawfully acquired, and the poor to seek refuge in 
servitude from the perpetual injuries to which their 
weakness was exposed. The right of collecting 
homines or dependent vassals was not confined to 
any order of nobility, since no such order existed, nor 
to any other privileged class of men. But though 
the right in this case was only limited by the power, 
the number of seigniors was restricted by the very 
great expense which necessarily attended the main- 
tenance of homines. The greatest seignior was of 
course the king himself, who had large territorial 
possessions in every part of the kingdom. The 
Vassi Dominici, as his dependants were called in 

1 Marculf. i. 7., ii. 1. Greg. Tur. vi. 21., viii. 21., iv., 27., 
v. 49., vi. 11, 24. Vid. Roth, p. 371. 


Carlovingian times, answered to the Anstrustiones 
mentioned in the Salic law, as these to the Comites 
" in pace decns in bello presidium " of still earlier 
times. They stood in the closest personal relation to 
the king, to whom they resigned for ever all their 
rights as freemen and citizens, in return for free 
maintenance, the royal favour and protection, and 
the numerous advantages which their position na- 
turally brought with it. The oath by which they 
bound themselves, on entering into this relation, was 
either different in kind to that which every subject 
was called upon to take, or if the same, acquired 
additional solemnity by being made to the king 
in person, between whose hands the royal vassal 
placed his own. 

The connexion between other seigniors and their 
vassals was precisely of the same nature. Every 
dependent freeman swore allegiance and fidelity to 
his superior, and bound himself to a life-long service, 
from which there were no means of escaping after- 
wards. So strict was the bond thus formed, and so 
effectually did the seigniors of Carlovingian times 
assist each other in maintaining their authority, 
that to receive or harbour a fugitive vassal was 
forbidden by the law — which even required that he 
should be sent back to his seignior for punishment. 

But besides the Vassi, whose relation to their 
seignior was simply a personal one, there was another 
class, which in Carlovingian times had also fallen 
into a state of hereditary servitude. These were 
originally free settlers, who, having no property of 

D D 

402 THE FKANKS. [Chap. IX. 

their own, occupied the lands of others on certain 
conditions. As soon as the land began to accu- 
mulate in the hands of a few, it became customary 
for the poorer freemen to settle on the royal domains, 
the territory of the Church, and of the great lay pro- 
prietors, where they received portions called Mansi, 
on condition of paying a fixed rent in kind. 1 This 
natural relation between landlord and tenant existed 
early in the sixth and seventh centuries, but was at 
that time free from the servile character into which 
it subsequently degenerated. Such settlers were 
originally at liberty to put an end to the connexion 
that had been formed by simply giving up the land; 
they contracted no personal or perpetual obligations 
like the A 7 assus, but retained all their inherent rights 
as citizens and freemen. Mansi, or farms of this kind, 
were also held by Liti and Servi on a very different 
tenure, and we find different properties distinguished 
as Mansi ingeniales, Mansi lidiles, Mansi serviles. 
And though in later times these terms were used 
quite irrespectively of the rank of the holder, yet they 
imply that such a distinction had existed. The ad- 
vantage on the side of the free tenant or ingenuus 
consisted, not only in the limitation of his rent, and 
in the less irksome nature of the aids and services 
required of him, but more particularly in the ter- 
minable nature of his agreement, and his right of 
free migration from place to place. In the eighth 
century, however, we see that in his case also the 
personal relation of life-long dependence has grown 

1 Rotlt, p. 375. et seq. 

Chap. IX.] THE VASST. 403 

up, and that lie has been pressed down almost to a 
level with the litus. He has lost the power of mi- 
gration, and has begun to perform services for his 
landlord which had formerly been considered incom- 
patible with freedom. At a still later period, when 
the number of independent freemen had become very 
small, the last privilege which they possessed, of 
having their rent in kind fixed at a maximum, was 
extended both to liti and servi ; and thus almost all 
distinction between these three classes was lost, and 
the free settlers were absorbed into the class of serfs. 

In the time of Carl Martel then, the retinue of the 
seigniors was composed of the vassals whose character 
we have explained, and the freemen who held por- 
tions of their land at a rent in kind. They were 
both comprehended under the general term homines, 
of whom the vassi came to be considered the superior 
class. The duties of the vassi are not easily de- 
finable, but they were chiefly military in their nature, 
and such as were not deemed unbecoming; of freemen ; 
while the military services which all freemen owed 
the king were rarely claimed more than once a year, 
when the vassals were required to be in readiness to 
march at any time and in any direction. 

The very principle of the seigniorship is incom- 
patible, not only with public freedom, but with order 
and good government. When any considerable por- 
tion of the inhabitants of a country owe a closer 
allegiance to some other human authority, whether 
spiritual or temporal, than to the national govern- 
ment, the workings of the machine of state must 

p p 2 

404 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

be impeded and irregular. Every seigniorship, 
every ecclesiastical immunity throughout the land, 
was a stumbling-block in the path of law and justice, 
a stronghold for all those who desired to evade their 
duties to their country. They were fraught with 
the greatest dangers to the power of the crown, the 
administration of justice, and the constitution of 
the army. 

The military system of the Franks, as we have 
seen, was founded on the oath of fidelity to the king, 
the universal obligation of the freeman to serve him 
gratuitously in war, at the summons and generally 
und$r the command of the court of the gau or pagus* 
The working of this system was first seriously im- 
peded by the immense accumulation of land in the 
hands of the clergy, to whom, in very many cases, 
immunities (exemptions from the usual burdens and 
obligations attaching to landed property) had been 
granted by pious but short-sighted donors. 

The immunities of the Church were in a great 
measure closed against the military ban of the count 
and the sentence of the judge, who could only act 
indirectly and imperfectly through the advocate of 
the bishop or abbot. 1 While the property of the 
Church had been of moderate extent, the incon- 
venience felt was comparatively slight ; but the ex- 
cessive liberality of the Merovingians not unfre- 
quently excluded the count and his authority from 
nearly half his gau. 

The same inconveuience was felt, though in a less 

1 Rotli, p. 351. 



degree, in the case of lay proprietors, who gathered 
large numbers of homines about them. The very 
liability to gratuitous military service which had once 
been their pride and pleasure, drove the impoverished 
freemen into a state of vassalage : both because they 
found it easier and safer to neglect the ban, when 
under the protection of a powerful chief; and because, 
if compelled to serve, the expense of their equipment 
and maintenance fell in part upon the seignior. The 
terrible results of the development of these imperia 
in imperio, favoured as it was by the imbecility of 
the later Merovingians, are witnessed in every page 
of contemporary annals. The civil and military con- 
stitution of the country was destroyed, and general 
government existed but in name. The country was 
filled with a crowd of petty tyrants, ecclesiastical and 
temporal, who, while they oppressed their vassals, set 
them an example of disobedience to the law, and trea- 
son to the king. Acknowledging no right but that 
of the stronger, they carried on perpetual feuds with 
one another ; or, if they united for a time, it was 
generally in opposition to the liberties of the people, 
or the authority of the government. In the period 
which immediately preceded the rise of Carl Martel 
to supreme authority, we find the prototype of that 
state of things which existed in England, under 
Stephen and Matilda, when the law, if it interfered 
at all, had to appear as one among a thousand strug- 
gling powers. Happily for the Frankish empire, 
when it seemed on the point of dissolution, there were 
giants in the land, powerful enough to curb for a time 

D L> 3 

406 THE FRANKS. [CiiAr. IX. 

this Itydralieaded tyranny, and sufficiently free from 
superstition not to shrink from mulcting the Church 
of a portion of its corrupting wealth. The transition 
from the confusion and anarchy of the latter part of 
the seventh century, to something like law and order, 
and a central government capable of defending both, 
was made by Carl Xtartel, one of the greatest heroes 
of the middle ages. His indomitable energy and mili- 
tary genius enabled him to subdue all who opposed 
him in arms ; and he then applied himself to the task 
of reconstructing the shattered fabric of the state, 
from such materials as he found at hand. 

To a warrior and a conqueror as he was, and was 
obliged to be, it was a matter of necessity to have a 
good supply of soldiers ; his first object, therefore, was 
to get at those who had hitherto in various ways evaded 
their military duties. The seigniorship and the immu- 
nities were facts with which the old military constitu- 
tion was incompatible. They could not be destroyed, 
for they had already taken deep root in the social 
system ; they must therefore be acknowledged and 
legalised, but placed under superintendence and 
brought into subservience to the wants and purposes 
of the state. From the beginning of the eighth century, 
the obligation to perform military service was extended 
to bishops and abbots, who were expected to appear in 
the field at the head of all those of their homines 
who were amenable to the general war-ban ; that is, of 
course, all the freemen who lived upon their territory, 
or attached themselves to their person. The lay 
seigniors too, since they had in a great measure 

Chap. IX.] THE SE1GNI0RSHIP. 407 

usurped the functions of the counts, were compelled 
to undertake his responsibilities together with his 
rights and powers, and to answer for the appearance 
of all the freemen among their vassals. 

Like the counts, they were subjected to penalties 
for leaving any of their homines behind, and made 
responsible for the state of their equipments, and for 
their behaviour in the field. The homines of the 
seigniors had many advantages over the free pagenses, 
which continually tended to swell the ranks of the 
former. The seignior was bound by custom, as well 
as interest and inclination, to pay a part of the ex- 
penses of his followers, who derived besides much 
mutual aid from this close connexion with one 
another. 1 

A right understanding of the manner in which the 
seigniorship attained its vast importance will enable 
us to gain a correct view of the nature and object of 
the benejicia, with which it afterwards became in- 
separably connected. The form which society had 
assumed during the seventh century was briefly this : 
Throughout the length and breadth of the land, the 
seigniors or liege lords had gathered round them the 
strength and resources of the whole nation, and had 
attained to a state of semi-independence. They stood 

1 The duty of Wacha, or keeping guard, and of defending the 
borders of the empire, was also gratuitous ; but borderers, in consi- 
deration of the more frequent calls upon them, were exempted from 
the general ban. The publicm functiojies, as the building of 
bridges, roads, palaces, &c, were also gratuitously performed ; nor 
were the free homines of a seignior in any way exempted by law 
from these general services. 

d d 4 

408 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

on the once level plain of German freedom like the 
massive but isolated pillars of a rained temple, sup- 
porting nothing but themselves, and unconnected with 
each other. They were too strong to be thrown down, 
but they might perhaps be brought into harmonious 
relation, and be made to sustain the vast fabric of the 
state. It needed all the energy and all the wisdom 
of a Carl Mart el to effect this object. He performed 
by no means the most difficult part of his task, when 
he struck down the rebellious and tamed the haughty 
into submission. He knew that no strong govern- 
ment can be founded on force alone. It was necessary 
to bind the seigniors to the throne by their own in- 
terests ; to devise some plan by which zeal and devo- 
tion might be rewarded without too great a sacrifice ; 
by which disloyalty, and even a want of ready obe- 
dience, might be punished without a continual recourse 
to arms. To supply this desideratum was the main 
object of the beneficia or non-hereditary grants of 

The common opinion respecting these is well known, 
and has already been referred to. According to Eich- 
horn, Savigny, and others, the whole of Gaul was di- 
vided into military fiefs on its subjugation by Clovis, 
and the beneficial, we might almost say the feudal 
system, appeared in its full development in the sixth 
century. 1 Others derive the beneficia of Carlovin- 

1 Eichhorn thinks by the wars of Carl Martel and Pepin, the 
Mannitio or summoning of volunteers was changed into Bannitio, 
a compulsory levy. In the Eipuarian laws, the power of the ban 
was given to the king in the 7th century. Vid. Roth, pp. 199., 


gian times from the beneficia militaria of the Romans, 
and suppose that the lands which were first held at 
will, were subsequently granted for life, and ultimately 
in hereditary possession. Guizot thinks that all three 
tenures existed together. 

The Frankish kings from Clovis downwards pos- 
sessed large landed estates in every part of the em- 
pire which bore the name of Jiscus, and from which 
they were accustomed to reward their followers. Un- 
der the Merovingians the grants of fiscal land appear 
to have been almost exclusively free and unconditional 
gifts 1 , nor is there any mention of beneficia, in the 
Carlovingian sense of the word, in the whole history 
of Gregory. But when, as we have shown, it became 
a question of existence to the government to secure 
the dependence of the seigniors, the end in view 
could not be answered by hereditary grants. To 
have enriched the seigniors in this manner from the 
fiscus, would but have weakened the crown at the ex- 
pense of its unruly subjects, and added fuel to the 
fire which was preying on the vitals of the state. 
Recourse was therefore had to a new species of en- 
dowment by non-hereditary grants, not, as some sup- 
pose, revocable at will, but subject to forfeiture for 

"Montesquieu regards the beneficia as crown lands (granted to the 
Leudes), which were originally held at will, but through various 
abuses had become hereditary ; so that Carl Martel was obliged to 
found a new set of bcnelicia — the Carlovingian." 

1 Whether single cases occur of such temporary and revocable 
grants, analogous to the precarice and similar properties held of 
the Church, we cannot stop to inquire. 

410 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

treason or disloyalty, and in all cases terminable at the 
death of the grantor. 

These were the beneficia of the Carlovinstfans, 
which naturally became a great object of rivalry and 
ambition to the seigniors, as affording the means of 
increasing the number of their homines. The bene- 
ficia attached some by their hopes, and others by their 
fears, and taught all to look at the crown as the 
fountain of profit as well as honour. The holders of 
beneficia from the crown were not identical with the 
royal vassals, or vassi dominici, though the same 
persons frequently stood in both relations to the 
king, and the two classes were gradually merged in 
one another. The relation of vassal to his lord was 
entirely personal, and there were vassi who had no 
beneficia, just as there were beneficiaries who were 
not vassals. 1 Yet it was natural that the king should 
seek those as vassals whose aid he could depend upon 
in war, and that he should wish to strengthen their 
bands and increase their personal dignity, by bestow- 
ing beneficia upon them. And thus the vassi domi- 
nici became in the course of time the largest holders 
of beneficia. The beneficiaries, on the other han^p 
though they were not necessarily vassals, were obliged 
to seek in person the renewal of their grants from 
every fresh successor to the crown. The opportunity 
therefore was presented, and eagerly seized, of gradu- 
ally bringing the holders of beneficia into a peculiarly 
close relation of dependence and allegiance to the 
sovereign. And thus these different classes ap- 

1 Roth, p. 429. 


proached each other so nearly that the distinction 
was eventually lost sight of. 

Though it is evident that the funds employed by 
Government to conciliate and reward devotion 
would go much further on the system of beneficia 
than of hereditary grants, yet they did in fact fall 
short of the exigencies of the state ; and it was this 
deficiency of means which impelled Carl Martel and 
his son Pepin to take extraordinary measures in 
regard to the Church. The object and effect of the 
most famous of these — the Secularisation — have 
been spoken of above (p. 302.); but its great import- 
ance will perhaps excuse a further mention of it, in 
this connexion. 

We have seen how the matchless vigour, wise coun- 
sels, and good fortune of the Carlovingians, enabled 
them to tame the unruly spirit of the great lay 
seigniors, and to yoke them to the car of state. They 
had a still more difficult task before them, to diminish 
the wealth, to curb the excesses, and humble the 
pride of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the empire. 
In reading the history of the later Merovingians, we 
are struck with astonishment at seeing how promi- 
nent a part is taken by prelates of the Church, in the 
most disgraceful intrigues and murderous feuds of 
that blood-stained age. When not restrained by 
religious considerations, a simple priest could be 
factious, licentious, and cruel, with far greater safety 
than the mightiest layman. Even in the age of Chil- 
peric and Fredegunda, the rights and privileges of 
the Church were generally respected, and the sacred 

412 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

office and separate jurisdiction of its ministers too 
often procured for them impunity in crime. The 
bishops and abbots therefore, whose splendid reve- 
nues and numerous vassals placed them on a level 
with the proudest seigniors, were far more difficult to 
deal with than the most wealthy and turbulent of the 
laity. To this was added that the discipline of the 
Gallican clergy had fallen into complete disorder. 
Their distance from the seat of the Roman pontiff, 
and the absence of all common action and ready com- 
munication among themselves, rendered them inde- 
pendent of all spiritual authority, and even of that 
mutual surveillance which sometimes supplies its 
place. Both history and experience have taught us 
that no religious community, however favourable the 
circumstances of the age in which it exists, can be 
long preserved from corruption without the constant 
watchfulness and interference of some strong; autho- 
rity. It can cause us little surprise therefore, in a 
period so full of influences hostile to the development 
of the Christian life, to find that many of the prelates 
of the Church had nothing of the priest or the Chris- 
tian about them, but the name; and were guilty of 
the most terrible and shameful crimes which disgrace 

To restore the internal discipline and morality of 
the Frankish Church was the object of Wilfrid (Boni- 
face) the Englishman's glorious mission. The ruder 
task of bringing it into some degree of subservience 
to the state was performed by Carl Martel and King 
Pepin. Besides the expedient already mentioned of 


placing the bishops and abbots on the footing of lay 
seigniors, and requiring them to bring their homines 
into the field, these rulers took advantage of the disor- 
ganised state of the hierarchy, to bestow the great 
prizes in the Church on the most faithful of their ser- 
vants, without much regard to mental or spiritual fit- 
ness. This had been done before the time of Carl 
Martel, but with him it became the rule to give away 
sees and benefices to those who would turn them to 
secular and military purposes. What was attempted 
by our Henries, in the case of Thomas- a- Becket and 
Wolsey, was here carried out on a more extensive 
scale. The nephew of Carl Martel, Hugo, held at 
the same time the bishoprics of Paris, Rouen, and 
Bayeux. Pope Gregory II. complains, in a letter to 
Vigilius of Aries 1 , that laymen, solely with a view to 
temporal honours, assumed the tonsure on the death 
of bishops, and suddenly became priests. " In the time 
of Prince Carl (Martel)," says Hincman, " in the Ger- 
man, Belgian, and Gallic provinces, the Christian re- 
ligion was almost entirely abolished, so that bishops 
being left only in a few places, the bishoprics were 
granted to laymen." He then goes on to speak of 
" a certain Milo, a priest by his tonsure, but in his 
morals, habits, and actions an irreligious layman, who 
occupied the sees of Rheims and Treves at the same 
time, and destroyed them for the space of many years, 
so that many of the Eastern Franks worshipped idols 
and remained unbaptized." 2 The influence of Carl 

1 Bouquet, iv. p. 13. 

2 Hincmari Opera ii. p. 731. (ad Episcop. tie jure Metropolitan, 

414 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

Martel upon the Church was only external and poli- 
tical. He was no religious reformer, and though he 
aided Boniface in his efforts to bring the Frankish 
clergy under the stricter discipline at Rome, his objects 
were chiefly secular ; he was not without reverence for 
religion and its ministers, but he regarded the Church 
chiefly as a great military chest, from which his wars 
might be most readily supplied. 1 

The famous Act of the Secularisation, however, is 
erroneously attributed to Carl Martel, though no 
doubt the arbitrary manner in which he infringed 
upon the privileges of the Church, and perverted its 
revenues, prepared the way for a more wholesale 
spoliation. That important event in the history of 
the Frankish Church took place in the middle of the 
eighth century, and under the auspices of Carloman 
and Pepin. It stands in close connexion with the 
revival of discipline and organisation among the 
clergy which those princes aided Boniface to bring 
about. The pressing wants which Carl Martel had 
supplied, in a manner so injurious to the best in- 
terests of the Church, were experienced in a still 
greater degree by Carloman and Pepin, and it was 

xliv. c. xx.). Conf. Chron. Viridunense (written 1115 A.D.), ap. 
Bong. iii. p. 364. ; and Epist. Greg. II. ad Episcop. (ap. Sirmond. 
Concil. Gall. torn. i. p. 513.) Bonif. Epist. 51. (ad Zacbar.): 
" Modo autem maxima ex parte per civitates episcopales sedes 
tradita3 sunt laicis cupidis ad possidendum vel adulteratis Clericis, 
scortatoribus, et publicanis seculariter ad perfruendum." 

1 Gieseler, i. 746. De majoribus domus regice (ap. Du Chesne, 
Hist. Franc. Script, torn. ii. p. 2.): "Carolus . . . res Ecclesiarum 
propter assiduitatem bellorum laicis tradidit." 


equally necessary for them to employ the wealth of 
the Church in propping the fabric of the State. But 
the influence of Boniface and the Bishop of Eome 
induced them to seek their ends in a less rude 
and violent though equally effective manner. They 
could no longer suddenly change a warlike layman 
into a priest, by shaving the top of his head and 
investing him with wealthy benefices, and they there- 
fore used the influence and mediation of Boniface to 
obtain from the clergy a voluntary resignation of a 
large portion of their revenues. The matter was 
brought before the Council of Lestines (a. d. 743), 
and it was then that the Secularisation may be said 
to have been consummated. In appearance it was 
a still greater inroad upon the ecclesiastical rights 
than any which even Carl Martel had allowed him- 
self; but in fact it was a change for the better, since 
it tended to rid the Church of a class of ignorant and 
licentious bishops, who had hitherto corrupted and 
disgraced it. The terms in which this voluntary 
surrender was made are as follows: — " Statuimus 
quoque, cum consilio servorum Dei et populi Christiani, 
propter imminentia bella et persecutiones casterarum 
gentium, qua3 in circuitu nostro sunt, ut sub precario 
et censu aliquam partem ecclesialis pecuniaB (i. e. pro- 
perty) in adjutorum exercitus nostri, cum indulgentia 
Dei aliquanto tempore retineamus ea conditione ut 
annis singulis de unaquaque casata solidus, i. e. xn. 
denarii ad ecclesiarn vel monasterium reddantur ; eo 
modo ut si moriatur ille cui pecunia commodata 
fuit, Ecclesia cum propria pecunia revestita sit. 

416 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

Et iterum, si necessitas cogat, aut Princeps jubeat 
precarium renovetur et rescribatur novum." x 

And thus were both lay and clerical seigniors 
brought into subjection for a time by the vigour 
of the extraordinary men who founded the second 
Frankish dynasty. Yet this policy only aimed afc 
the control and guidance of the irregular and im- 
petuous forces which existed around them, and not 
at their annihilation. The Carlovingians decidedly 
favoured the seigniorship, and themselves created the 
beneficial system; and they used them both to carry 
out their schemes of conquest and empire. But a 
machine which proved so powerful in the hands of 
Carl Martel and his successors, could only be worked 
by hands like theirs, as was clearly seen when the 
sword of these mighty warriors passed into the hands 
of the feeble son of Charlemagne. 

The difficulty with which even these three heroes 
maintained the supremacy of the crown, is clearly 
seen in the annals of their reigns. The vassi 
dominici, though curbed for thfc time, continually 
increased in strength, and gradually developed into 
a feudal aristocracy of birth. That such a class of 
hereditary nobility had not hitherto existed, as is 
generally maintained, might be satisfactorily proved 
from the Salic law alone. But the arguments de- 
rived from it are confirmed by the History of Gregory 
of Tours, which contains no trace of a Frankish 
nobility. When a long-haired Merovingian is shorn 

1 Sirmond. Cone. Gall. i. p. 540. 


of his royal locks, lie is said to have been reduced to 
the rank of a plebeian. 1 When the royal murderers, 
Childebert I. and Clotaire, are consulting upon the fate 
of their nephews, they debate whether " they should 
cut their hair and cause them to be regarded like the 
rest of the plebs." (Utrum incisa ca3sarie ut reliqva 
Plcbs habeantur.) When the historian is speaking 
of a powerful or distinguished Frank, it is always 
as a wealthy man, or as filling an important office ; 
never as a man of noble lineage or hereditary ho- 
nours. 2 That the omission of all reference to a 
nobility of birth among the Franks is not accidental, 
is evident from the fact that where hereditary dis- 
tinctions did exist, as among the Gallo-Komans, they 
are always noticed. 3 

Yet though we conceive that nothing in mediaaval 
history is more certain than that the seigniors, under 
the Carlovingian mayors, were not an order of nobility 
in the proper sense, yet it recpnred but a few changes 
and a little time, to make them the most powerful 
hereditary aristocracy that the world ever saw. The 
very means which Carl Martel took to subject them, 
served in the sequel to increase their power, and to 
insure them a victory over the first ordinary occu- 
pant of the throne. There is a natural tendency — 
scarcely to be overcome even in the freest states — in 
wealth and honours to become hereditary. And 

1 Greg. iii. 18. 

2 Greg. viii. 29. et passim. 

3 In the Formula of Marculf, it is admission into the king's 
retinue which is made the ground of increased weregeld. 

E E 

418 THE FRANKS. [Chap. IX. 

whatever the theory, and even the practice of such a 
man as Carl Martel might be, respecting the bene- 
ficia, it was inevitable that the grants of land which 
had been made to the father would in ordinary times, 
in the great majority of cases, be renewed in favour 
of the son. This would happen even under fearless 
and powerful monarchs ; but how much more so 
under those whose chief object was to avoid giving 
oftence ; and who knew that by depriving a single 
vassal of his benefice, or even disappointing the hopes 
of an expectant heir, they would draw upon themselves 
the wrath and enmity of all in a like position ! The 
process by which the beneficia, and even the office of 
count, became hereditary was so gradual, that it is 
impossible to assign any particular date to this im- 
portant change ; but it was not until after this change 
had been completed that the new and mighty order of 
nobility took its rise, which has played so conspicuous, 
so brilliant, and, in some countries, so glorious a part 
in the succeeding history of Europe. 




All the information which Tacitus has given us 
concerning the laws of the ancient Germans is con- 
tained in a few short sentences ; but brief as they 
are, we find in them the fundamental principles of 
their subsequent legislation, and the broad and un- 
mistakable characteristics of the whole Teutonic race. 
If we compare the scanty notices of the great his- 
torian with the later codes of different tribes, and 
more particularly with those of the Salian and Ripu- 
arian Franks, we find so great a similarity between 
them, not only in their general spirit, but in some of 
the most striking of their provisions, that they serve 
to verify and illustrate each other. 

The well known Salic law — one of the most re- 
markable monuments of antiquity — has been handed 
down to us in a barbarous and corrupted latinity; 
but whether it was originally composed in the Latin 
lan^uaffe is still a subject of debate among antiqua- 
rians. The controversy has originated in the very 

1 We have made use of the excellent edition of Joh. Merkel, 
Lex Salica; Berlin, 1850. 

E E ti 

420 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

singular fact that the oldest editions of the code 
contain a considerable number of words of unknown 
import, interspersed through the Latin text, but 
having no apparent connexion with the sense. 1 
These words, known under the name of the Malberg 
Glossy are considered by some writers to belong to 
the ancient Celtic language 2 ; while Jacob Grimm 
declares them to be remnants of the German dialect 
in which the laws were originally composed, and 
which gradually made way for the bastard Latin of 
Merovingian times. In his eyes they are the only 
u planks " and " splinters " that have been washed 
on shore from the shipwreck of the old Frankish 
tongue, and on that account worthy of the notice 
both of the lawyer and the philologian. 3 

Without entering any further into this question, 
on which Leo on the one side, and Grimm on the 
other, have argued with almost equal learning and ve- 
hemence, we may remark upon the antecedent impro- 
bability of a theory which maintains that German 
laws brought by Germans from the German forests 
should contain the remnants of a Celtic dialect. The 
theory of Grimm, on the other hand, has the merit 
of being in harmony with the Frankish history ; and 
is further recommended by the striking results of his 
later researches. 

1 The first edition of this ancient code is that of Herold, who 
procured it from the library of Fulda, and caused it to be printed 
with the so-called Malberg Gloss. 

2 Leo "Die Malb. Glosse." (Halle, 1842.) 

3 Grimm's Vorrecle liber die Malbergische Glosse, in Johannes 
Merkel's Lex Salica. 


The exact date of the composition and promulga- 
tion of the Salic law is very uncertain, but the great 
antiquity of the oldest part of it is abundantly at- 
tested both by external and internal evidence. The 
foundation of the whole code is found in the first 
sixty-five chapters. From the sixty-sixth to the 
seventy-sixth we have the additions made by Clovis 
in the beginning of the sixth century, which are also 
accompanied by the Malberg Gloss. The chapters 
from the seventy- seventh to the hundred and fifth, 
are the work of Chilperic II., Clotaire II., and other 
Merovingian kings, and are without the gloss, Be- 
sides the code itself we have 357 fragments, collected 
under the head of Novellce, which consist almost en- 
tirely of additions and modifications of the above 
mentioned laws ; forty of the other Novellas are taken 
from Alaric's Breviarium, and are therefore later 
than the year 506 a.d., and 146 contain a reference 
to the Christian Church and the holy reliques. At- 
tached to some of the older MSS., are several longer 
and shorter Epilogues in which some account of the 
collection and promulgation of the laws is attempted 
to be °iven. One of these is as follows : " Hoc sunt 
qui lege Salica tractaverunt Wisogast, Widegast, Aro- 
gast, Bodegast, Salegast, Wisoicando, in Bodachcem 
et in Salachce. The Prologues of other MSS. men- 
tion the same persons and the same places of abode. 
" Exiiterunt igitur inter eos electi de phiribus viri qua- 
tuor his nominibus IVisogastus, Arogastus, Salegasius, 
et Widogastus que {ultra Benum) sunt in Bodochem et 

E E 3 

422 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

Salachem, et Widochem" l The localities here men- 
tioned as the birthplaces of the Salic code are un- 
known, but we find in the laws themselves some slight 
indications of the geographical position of the Franks 
at the period referred to. In pact, xlvii. of the law, the 
Sylva Carbonaria 2 and the Ligere (the Ley or Ly), a 
small river in Belgium, which empties itself into the 
Scheldt, near Ghent, are spoken of as the proper 
boundaries of the Salic land. As, however, it seems 
to be implied in the same chapter that the Salic law 
was in force in the country on the other side of these 
boundaries, we are inclined to think that a period is 
here referred to when Cambrai, and the country as 
far as the Somme, had been conquered, but not 
thoroughly incorporated with the ancient Salian 
lands. These later conquests, as we have seen, were 
made by Clodio. It is probable, therefore, that the 
villages from which the above-named lawgivers were 
chosen, lay within the narrow territory above de- 
fined. And this supposition agrees particularly well 
with the nature of the laws themselves, adapted, as 
they are, for the use of a small community. Every- 
thing which we read in the original code is in har- 
mony with the state of things existing in the earlier 

1 At the end of the Leyden Codex there is a similar notice : 
u Ha3C sunt nomina eorum qui fecerunt legem Salicae, Visuast, 
Saleanats, Vicats ; qui vero manserunt in lege in budice do micio 

2 Waitz (D. alte R. d. Sal. Frank, p. 59.) supposes this forest 
(Kohlenwald) to have extended from the R. Sambre, near Thuin, 
inaNW. direction towards the Scheldt. 


part of the fifth century (422 a.d.), when the Frank- 
ish territory was small, and its inhabitants compa- 
ratively few and poor; and when, too, though they 
had already come into contact with the Romans, 
they had adopted nothing of their religion, laws, or 
manners. The singular agreement between the Salic 
code and some passages in the Germania of Tacitus, 
tends to confirm us in this opinion, and renders it 
extremely improbable that so vast a change in the 
circumstances of the Frankish people as was brought 
about by the subjugation of Gaul should have inter- 
vened between the time of which Tacitus speaks and 
that of the Salian legislation. We plainly perceive 
that the interval, whether shorter or longer, had 
effected but little change in the condition and rela- 
tions of the people. Nor is the agreement above 
referred to more remarkable for what is said, than for 
what is omitted. Neither the treatise of Tacitus nor 
the Salian code contain much constitutional law, nor 
in fact anything which indicates close political rela- 
tions, or an organised system of government. Their 
main and almost sole object appears to be, to deter- 
mine and uphold the 'personal rights of the freebom 
inhabitants of the country. Protection for the life 
and limbs, the property and honour of the ingenuus, 
is sum and substance of the whole. 

But though there is but little in the ancient Ger- 
man laws of what we call the State, or even of ex- 
tended social life, there are perpetual references to 
the existence of a very close relation between the 

E E 4 

424 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

members of a domus, or, in the widest sense, family 1 ; 
which corresponded in a great measure to the gens of 
the early Romans. Originally, no doubt, the members 
of these houses were all connected, though distantly, 
by blood or marriage ; but in later times actual 
blood-relationship was not an indispensable prerequi- 
site for admission. Into such a family every free- 
man entered at his birth as a partner in its privi- 
leges and responsibilities. The looser their connexion, 
— the less frequent their intercourse with the rest of 
the world, — the closer were the ties which bound the 
members of these clans together. And hence it is that 
some of the provisions of the Salic code, even where they 
only regard single persons, bear rather the character 
of international than of private law. Xo man could 
either sin or suffer as an individual; by every of- 
fence which he committed, he rendered himself and 
his gentiles responsible to all the members of another 
similar corporation. The union of several of these 
houses or families (which held a certain portion 
of land in common) formed the larger commu- 
nity to whose settlements Tacitus gives the name 
of pagus 2 (in the more confined sense of the word), 
and the Salic law that of villa. In the fifth century, 
owiii£ to the increasing value of land, the houses had 
become exclusive corporations, into which admission 
could not be gained if a single member of them ob- 

1 Tac. Germ. xxi. : "Luitur enira etiam homicidium certo ar- 
mentorum ac pecoruni nmnero, recipitque satisfactionem universal 

2 Pagus is also used by Latin writers for gau or canton. 


jected. Yet the Praeceptuin of the king, or undis- 
turbed possession of a portion of the common land 
for twelve months, appears to have been sufficient to 
establish the rioht. 1 

The obligations which rested upon a member of 
these corporations, seem at times to have outweighed 
the advantages to be derived from them, and to have 
become so onerous that it was necessary to provide 
a means of escaping from them. The Salic law 
actually contains a formula by which any man might 
free himself from all connexion with his parentilla? 

The social distinctions indicated in this code 
have been noticed in another portion of this work ; 
but for the sake of perspicuity it will be necessary 
briefly to refer to them again. The high honour 
paid to the king, even in the very ancient period 
which gave birth to these laws, appears from the fact 
that all who stood in any near relation to him were 
under the peculiar protection of the law. 

Without the intervention of any order of nobility, 
of which there is not a single trace throughout the code, 
we descend at once from the king to the freeman 
(Francus ingenuus, homo ingennus, baro ingenuus), 
placed on an equality with whom we find "the 
German who lived according to the Salic law." {Bar- 
bams qui lege Salica vivit.) Next in order to the 
in^enuus is the Vitus, who was no doubt identical 
with the serf whom Tacitus represents as cultivating 

1 Vid. Lex Sal. xlv. De raigrantibus. 

2 Lex Sal. lx. De cum qui se de parentilla tollere vult. 

426 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

the soil, and paying a rent in kind to his lord. 1 That 
the litus was not free is evident from the mention of 
his master and the fact that he could be sold 2 ; 
though we find a weregeld set upon his life equal to 
that of the free Roman, it was probably paid to the 
person whose property he was. We see, however, 
that the Liti had somewhat improved their condition 
in the interval between the first and fifth centuries ; 
for by the laws of the Franks they were allowed to 
enter into binding legal engagements, and to appear 
before the public tribunals. On the same footing 
with resj)ect to weregeld were the Pueri Regis 3 , 
whose position was certainly one of servitude, but 
cannot be accurately defined ; and the liberti or freed- 
men, whose condition in the time of Tacitus was 
very little raised above that of the slave. 4 

In the Romance population the Salic law distin- 
guishes two classes — the Possessor Romanics, and the 
Tributaries Romanas. The meaning of these terms 
is very uncertain ; the former is generally supposed 
to denote one of the higher class of landed proprietors, 
who retained their possessions after the Frankish con- 
quest ; and the latter, one of the great mass of com- 
mon freemen, who were liable to a poll tax. 5 Roth 

1 Tac. Germ. xxvi. Waitz differs from this view. Waitz, 
Das alte Recht der Salischen Franken. 

2 Lex. vSal. xxxv. Litum alienum. Ibid. xxvi. 1., xxxv. 4. 

3 They may have been slaves whose position was raised by 
their being about the court, and in personal attendance on the 
king. Vid. L. Sal. lxxviii. 

4 Tac. Germ. xxv. 

5 Rotb, 83, 84. 


endeavours with considerable success to show that 
the term possessor was used of every Roman who 
had the right to possess land ; while the tributarius 
was identical with the Roman colonus, and held a 
sort of middle place between the freeman and slave. 

Such are the only hereditary distinctions of which 
the Salic law takes cognisance. We meet, however, 
with several titles denoting temporary rank, derived 
from offices political and judicial, or from a position 
about the person of the king. 

Anions these the Antrustiones, who were in con- 
stant attendance upon the king, and formed his court, 
played a conspicuous part. In the oldest portion of 
the Salic law the word Antrustio does not occur, but 
the same persons are designated by the words qui in 
truste dominica. Romans who held the same posi- 
tion were called Convives Regis. The Antrustiones 
and Convive Regis are the predecessors of the Vassi 
Dominici of later times, and like these were bound 
to the king by an especial oath of personal and 
perpetual service. They formed part, as it were, 
of the king's family, and were expected to reside in 
the palace, where they superintended the various 
departments of the royal household. 1 

Though generally employed in some particular 
office at court, the nature of their relation to the 
king rendered it incumbent upon them to hold them- 
selves in readiness for any task which their royal 
master might please to impose upon them. So far 

1 Waitz, Verfass. Gescli. ii. 394. 396. No. i. Roth, p. 125. 127. 

428 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

from their forming a separate hereditary order of 
Frankish nobles, however, as Savigny and others 
have supposed, it is more than probable that they 
were sometimes chosen, not only from the Roman 
Possessores, but even from the Liti and Pueri Regis. 1 
The higher weregeld (or leodis) which was set upon 
their lives, was not a mark of higher birth, but arose 
simply from the general principle that every person 
or thing, in the service or possession of the king, 
was to be placed under the more especial protection 
of the law. If the Antrustio were a Frankish in- 
genuus, his leodis was triple that of the other 
Frankish freemen ; if a possessor, a litus, or a 
puer regis, then triple that of any other member of 
the class from which he was chosen. 

The highest official dignitary of which the Salic 
law makes mention, is the Grafio (Graf, Count), 
who was appointed by the king, and therefore pro- 
tected by a triple leodis. His authority and juris- 
diction extended over a district answering to the 
gau (canton) of later times, in which he acted as 
the representative of the king, and was civil and 
military governor of the people. The chief person 
in the Centence (hundreds) into which we have sup- 
posed the gau to be divided, is called by the twofold 
name of Thunginus and Centenarius. 2 This magis- 

> Roth, p. 119, 120. 

2 Lex Aleman. tit. 36. : " Conventus autem secundum con- 
snetudinem anti<"[itam fiat in orani centena coram comite aut suo 
misso et coram centenario ipsum placitum fiat." 


trate appears to have been elected by the community 
at large, and presided over the Mallus (court of law), 
which was held in the open air at certain stated 
periods for the administration of justice. 1 The place 
of meeting was called the Malloberg. On such oc 
casions, the grafio does not appear to have taken any 
part in the proceedings, but to have held a position ana- 
logous to our county sheriffs in the Courts of Assizes, 
and simply to have carried out the judgment of the 
court. 2 The actual judges were a certain number of 
freemen 3 chosen from the people, and called for the 
time being Rachmeburgii^ who, under the presidency 
of the Thunginas, acted the part of a college of judges 
or jury. A regular summons preceded every trial, 
which when made by the plaintiff is called matmire, 
and when made by the grafio, bannire. " He who 
summons another/' runs the law, " should go to his 
house with his witnesses ; and if he be not at home, 
then he (the plaintiff) may call his (defendant's) 
wife or one of his family, and make known to them 
that he is summoned." 4 In other cases the grafio 
himself went with seven Rachineburgii to the house 
of the defendant, to demand restitution or satisfac- 
tion, or to comply in some way or other with the 
decree of the court. 5 

1 Lex Sal. lx. In mallo ante Thunginum. 

2 Lex Sal. li. De ando meto. 

3 Perhaps seven. Lex Sal. I. De fides factas : " Tunc G ratio 
collegat septeni Rachineburgius [idoneos] et sic cum ipsis ad casa 
illius qui fidein fecit," etc. 

4 Lex Sal. i. De in an ni re. r > Lex Sal. 1. 

430 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

The penalty for non-appearance, on receiving a 
summons, was very severe ; and he who contuma- 
ciously neglected to fulfil the verdict of the Rachine- 
burgii was summoned to appear before the king 
within fourteen nights. 1 If he still failed to appear, 
the fact was attested by a certain number of 
witnesses ; this formality having been repeated with- 
out effect several times, the delinquent lost the king's 
protection, his property was confiscated, and all 
persons, including his own wife (uxor sua proxirna), 
were forbidden to feed him or receive him into their 
house, under a penalty of fifteen solidi. 2 Besides the 
Rachineburgii we find another class of persons taking 
part in the administration of justice, whose character 
and functions it is almost impossible to define. 
These are the Sacebarone. Their triple leodis, 
and the fact that they might be chosen either from 
the Pueri Regis as well as the Ingenui, seem to show 
that they were appointed by the king ; nor is it less 
evident that their office was one of honour and im- 
portance. Waitz appears to think that they were 
persons learned in the law, who were summoned to 
assist the deliberations of the Rachineburgii by 
their superior knowledge. 3 This hypothesis is too 
vague to be satisfactory ; and we are inclined to con- 
jecture, from the fact that the number of Sacebarone 
present at a Mallum was limited to three, and that 

1 They reckoned nights like all the Germanic tribes. Tac. 
Germ. xi. 

2 Lex Sal. lvi. 

s Waitz, Das al. R. d. S. Fr. p. 132. 


they are also called Obgrafiones 1 (vice-comites or de- 
puty counts), that they were representatives of the 
graf or count at those tribunals at which he was un- 
able to attend in person. 

When we come to examine the penal portion of 
the Salic code, we find its main feature, in agreement 
with all ancient German-legislation, to be the practice 
of atoning for every crime, even that of murder, by 
a fine in money or money's worth. This peculiar 
sanction of the law was evidently founded on the 
right of revenge awarded by the German, in common 
with the Oriental races, to the nearest relative of a 
murdered man. It was this right which was bought 
off and satisfied by the leodis or weregeld. What 
Tacitus says on this point is in strict accordance with 
the spirit of the Salian code. " The Germans are 
bound," he says, " to take up the feuds as well as 
the friendships of their fathers and kindred; but 
their hostility is not implacable, for even homicide 
may be atoned for by a certain number of cattle or 
sheep, and the whole family receives satisfaction." l 
And elsewhere he says, " Those who are convicted of 
a crime are mulcted of a number of horses or cattle ; 
part of the fine is paid to the king or the State, and 
part to the injured party, or to his relations. 3 

The whole penal code of the Salian Franks is 
founded upon the principles here laid down. In 
this too the right and duty of revenge may be com- 

1 Lex Sal. liv. De grafione occisum. 

2 Tac. Gorm. xxi. 3 Tac. Germ. xii. 

432 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

muted for a sum of money, varying according to the 
injury inflicted and the social rank of the sufferer. 

The intimacy of the bond by which every man 
was united to his family (domus in the sense already 
explained), rendered the members of it, associates 
both in his guilt, where he was the aggressor, 
and in his claim to compensation, where he was ag- 
grieved. But it was not compulsory on any one to 
accept the compensation offered by the law. Every 
freeman could refuse it, and trust to his own re- 
sources to procure for himself a retribution more 
suited to his taste. 1 In the majority of cases, how- 
ever, a man would be inclined, or, if not, would be 
compelled by public opinion, to accept the atonement 
offered by the law; which was moreover sufficient to 
satisfy the most vindictive heart. The nominal 
punishment, indeed, in the case of a freeman was only 
a fine in money, but the consequences of inability 
to pay were slavery and even death. The punish- 
ment of death was denounced directly only against 
slaves, but the immense amount of the fines in- 
flicted in certain cases must have made it by no 
means uncommon even among freemen. Where the 
murderer was an ingenuus, and his whole property 

1 Greg. Tur. vii. 21. King Guntram swears in presence of the 
Optbnates to avenge the murder of his brother Chiperic on Ebe- 
rulf to the ninth generation. '* Tunc Rex juravit omnibus opti- 
matibus, quod non modo ipsum (Eberulfum) verum etiam proge- 
niem ejus in nonam generationem deleret." Greg. Tur. vii. 47. 
Chramnisindus refuses to accept a composition for the murder of 
his father, Austrigisel, and sought a bloody revenge. Vid. Waitz, 
Das alte R. der Sal. Fiauken, p. 186. 


was insufficient to pay the fine, lie had to declare 
in the presence of twelve jurors that he had nothing 
either above or below the earth. He then left his 
house naked and with nothing but a staff in his hand, 
and his relations became responsible for him. If any 
of them could not bear his part, they had to go 
through the same ceremony as the culprit. Where 
the latter had no relations he was put up for sale at 
four successive Malbergs. If the sum offered for him 
was not sufficient to pay the fine, he was put to 
death. It seems, however, that in this case his enemy 
had to play the part of executioner. 1 

Now, when we consider that the leodis of a simple 
freeman was 200 solidi (which sum was tripled when 
he was serving in war or was in truste dominica), and 
that the value of a cow (as we learn from a state- 
ment in the Ripuarian code, and from the fine exacted 
for killing that animal) was only one sol, we may 
easily imagine that the cases of non-payment were 
anything but rare. 

When we come to examine the provisions of the 
laws themselves, we find them such as might be 
expected from the place and time of their composition. 
" Necessity," as has well been said, " dictated them, 
and freedom wrote them down." They bear the stamp 
of a rude and free people, living by agriculture and 
the pasturage of cattle ; ignorant of the complicated 
relations of civilised life, and prone to crimes of vio- 
lence rather than of licentiousness or chicanery. The 

1 Lex Sal. Tit. lviii. : " De Chrene cruda." 

E E 

434 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

crimes referred to may be characterised as those 
which are generally prevalent among the lower 
classes of an agricultural population. Of the sixty-five 
chapters of the original Salic laws, nearly a fourth 
part relates to robbery and theft, including poaching; 
and a large proportion of the rest to murder, rape, 
arson, cutting-and-maiming, destruction of property, 
&c. Besides these we find laws of inheritance and 
several enactments respecting the commerce of the 
sexes; with particular reference to unions, illicit or 
otherwise, between the Ingenui and the Liti and 
Servi. Not merely the lives, limbs, and goods of the 
freemen were protected by a fine, but their good 
name; and the law denounces a heavy punishment 
against those who should either slander, or in other 
ways insult, their neighbours. 

The leodis for all free Germans, who lived accord- 
ing to the Salic law, was 800 dinarii, or 200 solicli. 
This was increased to 600 when the murdered person 
was a puer crinitus (a boy under twelve years of age J, 
or a free woman capable of bearing children. The 
leodis of the latter was increased to 700 in case of 
actual pregnancy. The unborn child was protected 
by a leodis of 100 sols. Where a woman was killed 
together with the unborn child, and the latter 
happened to be a girl, the fine was 2400 sols ! l The 
fine for killing a freeman, when he was in mill- 
tary service, or when he had entered into a near 
and permanent relation to the king, was tripled. 
Thus the antrustio, the grafio, the sacebarone, if they 

1 Sal. Leg. Tit. lxxw 


were Ingenui, had a permanent leodis of 600 sols; 
which was also the fine for killing any freeman who 
was serving in war. If the antrustio, &c., were in 
military service the fine rose to 1800 sols. The same 
enormous penalty was enacted when the murderer of 
an ingenuus had endeavoured to conceal the body by 
throwing it into a well, or in any other way ; or 
when several persons in company {in contubemio 
facto) fell upon a man in his own house and killed 
him. 1 When a man was killed by an animal be- 
longing to another person, the owner of the 
beast was obliged to pay half the legal leodis of the 
deceased. The penalty for beating a freeborn boy, 
without the consent of his parents, was 45 sols, for 
beating a girl, 100 sols. 2 

Kidnapping and selling in the case of a freeman 
was punished equally with murder. 3 

The leodis of the Frankish letus was 100 sols, or 
half that of the ingenuus, and there is good reason 
for supposing that it was paid not to himself but to 
his master. 4 

The fine for killing another person's slave was 
thirty sols 5 , and exactly the same punishment was 
inflicted for stealing him, because he was regarded 
simply in the light of property. 6 On the same 

1 Lex. Sal. xxxix. 2 Lex. Sal. xlii. 3 Lex Sal. lxviii. 

4 xxvi. "De libertis demissis. Si quis alienurn letum extra 
consilium domini." Vid. xxxv. 3. xxvi. relates to setting free the 

5 Lex Sal. xxxv. 

6 Lex. Sal. x. " Si quis servura aut cavallum vel gumentuin 
furaverit . . . sol. 30 cul. pabilis judicetur." 

f f 2 

436 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

principle the leodis of the slave was greater if he 
were skilled in any art, because it made him of 
greater value to his master. 1 

The leodis of the higher class of Romans, the 
Possessores, was 100 sols ; and that of the Pueri 
Regis, in consequences of their relation to the king, 
was the same. The fine for slaying the Roman 
tributarius was only seventy-five sols. 2 

The leodis, as we have said before, was tripled 
during the time of military service, or the administra- 
tion of any office under the king. 

Other crimes, where the perpetrator was an inge- 
nuus, might also be atoned for by money, and we 
find in the Salic law a nicely-graduated scale of fines 
for wounds and other personal injuries. One hundred 
solidi, a moiety of the weregeld, was paid for de- 
priving a man of an eye, hand, or foot. 3 The thumb 
and great toe were valued at fifty sols; the second 
finger, with which they drew the bow, at thirty-five 
sols. With respect to other acts of violence, the 
fine varied accordino; to several minute circumstances; 
as, whether the blow was given with a stick or 
with closed fist ; whether the brain was laid bare ; 
whether certain bones obtruded, and how much ; 
whether blood flowed from the wound on to the 
ground, &c. &c. The punishment inflicted varied, of 
course, with the rank of the offender as well as that 

1 Lex. Sal. Novell, 306. 

2 Lex Sal. xli. This seems to have been raised to 100 sols. 
Vil x Sal. cap. lxxviii. 

3 The mutilation of a freedman was held equivalent to murder 
and punished by a fine of 200 solidi. Lex. Sal. xcv. 


of the injured party. If a letus or a slave killed an 
ingenuus, the homicide himself was given over to the 
friends of the murdered man as a moiety of the 
leodis, and the master of the criminal was obliged 
to pay the other half. 1 If the slave of one man 
killed the slave of another, the survivor was divided 
between the two owners. The ingenuus, as we have 
seen, was not subject to capital or corporal punish- 
ment, until every source from which he might claim 
assistance had been exhausted ; he was then put to 
death, or thrust down into a servile condition. But 
the law was by no means so considerate towards 
slaves. Death under various forms, torture, muti- 
lations, and stripes are denounced against them for 
comparatively light offences. If a slave robbed a 
freeman to the amount of forty-five sols, he was put 
to death. 2 If he stole two denarii, he had to pay 
120 denarii (three sols) or receive 120 lashes. Where 
the ingenuus would have been fined fifteen sols, the 
slave was stretched over a bench (super scammun 
tensus) and received 120 lashes. If he pleaded not 
guilty, his master had to produce him on a certain 
day, and the plaintiff might put him to the torture 
until he confessed. Even the female slave was sub- 
jected to corporal punishment, and in cases where 
a male slave would have been mutilated, the female 
must either pay six sols or receive 240 lashes. 3 

1 Lex Sal. tit. xxxv. 2 Lex Sal. xl. 

3 Tacitus says that Germans were mild to slaves. Roman in- 
fluence already at work. Tac. Germ. xxv. : " Verberare servum 

F P 3 

438 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

The penalties for theft are generally very high, 
and bespeak a strong Germanic respect for the rights 
of property. The fine for stealing a goose was three 
sols, the price of three cows ; and for stealing a single 
bee from under lock and key, was punished by the in- 
credible sum of forty-five sols ! * He who stole fuel 
from another's wood was fined three sols ; he who 
stole a net from a river, forty-five sols ; and other 
thefts were punished in proportion. 

The love of the Germans for field sports, to which 
Tacitus refers, is clearly evinced in the Salic law, by 
the severity of some of its provisions. 

The poacher was liable to a fine of forty-five sols 
for killing a single stag. To steal a hawk from a tree 
was punished by a fine of three sols, from its perch 
by fifteen sols ; and from under lock and key forty- 
five sols. 

Even the honour and self-respect of the ingenuus 
were protected in the same manner. No man could 
insult another by word or act without exposing him- 
self to the penalties of the law. To throw a stone 
over another man's house for the purpose of insulting 
him, cost seven and, afterwards fifteen sols. 2 To call 

ac vincules et opere coercere, rarum. Occidere solent non disci- 
plina et screritate sed impetu et ira ut inimicum,, nisi quod in- 
punc." Lex Sal. xl. The master, runs this clause, "virgas pa- 
ratas habere debet, quas ad magnitudinem minoris digiti sint, et 
scamnum pronto ubi servo ipso tendere debeat.'' This reminds us 
of the popular error that a man might beat his wife with a stick 
as biff as his littly fincrer. 

1 Lex Sal. -\iii., de furtis apium. 

2 Lex Sal. xcix. 


an Ingenuus a fox, a hare, or a dirty fellow ; or to say- 
that he had thrown away his shield, cost three sols ; 
to call a man a cheat cost fifteen sols ; to call him a 
wizard sixty-two and a half sols. To call a woman a 
harlot without being able to prove it, fifteen sols ; 
while to call her a witch (stria) rendered a man liable 
to the enormous penalty of 187 sols! l or very nearly 
as much as if he had taken the life of a Frankish 

We gain a good deal of interesting information 
from the Salic law, respecting the all important rela- 
tion between the sexes, from which the peculiarity 
and superiority of modern civilisation, as compared 
with that of the ancient world, mainly proceeds. 2 
And here too Tacitus and the Salic code are in the 
strictest unison with each other ; and those who know 
nothing of the latter, except that it excludes females 
from the throne, will be surprised at the tenderness it 
displays for the rights of women. " The wife," saj 7 s 
Tacitus, " does not bring a dowry to the husband, 
but the husband to the wife," 3 and the same custom 
is constantly referred to in the latter. This may ap- 
pear singular to us in an age when the increased 
demands of luxury, and still more the prevalence of 
concubinage and prostitution, have rendered marriage 
comparatively rare, and placed the weaker sex at an 
unnatural and cruel disadvantage. But apart from 
conventional usages, we are inclined to sympathise 

1 Lex Sal. lxiv. 2 Lex Sal. xxiii. 

3 Tac. Germ, xviii. Lex Sal. Ixxi.. lxxii. 

f f 4 

440 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

with Chremes 1 , in the play, when he complains that 
he has to leave his business, in order to find some one 
on whom he may bestow his daughter and his hardly 
earned wealth ! Yet we are not to suppose that there 
was any idea of purchase connected with the payment 
of the sponsalia (the " settlements " in modern phrase) 
which the bridegroom presented to his bride. The 
Salic law does not speak of the marriage solido et 
denario, although we find elsewhere the expression de 
solido et denario secundum legem Scdicam sponsare 2 ; but 
even where this ceremony was observed, it was simply 
symbolical, and was not in any way intended to repre- 
sent the price paid for the bride. A betrothal appears 
to have preceded the marriage, and as the domus, or 
family in the wider sense, was increased by the new 
connexion, it was customary, though not legally 
necessary, to ask the consent of the kindred of both 
parties. The engagement to marry took place in the 
presence of the parents, on either side. 3 Later texts 
of the Salic code speak of formally conducting the 
bride in a procession to the house of her husband. 

Besides the dowry which was given before the 
marriage ceremony had been performed, it was 
customary for the husband to make his wife a 

1 Terentii Heauton-timorownenos, act iv. sc. vii. : 

" Quam multa justa injusta fiunt moribus! 
Milii nunc, relictis rebus, inveniendus est 
Aliquis, labore inventa mea cui dem bona!' 

2 Vid. Da Cange, Glossar Scrip, mediae et infim. Latin, sub 
voce Solid us. 

3 Lex Sal. Novella?, 357. 


present on the morning after the first night, 1 This 
was called the morgengabe, or morning gift, the 
presenting of which, where no previous ceremony 
had been observed, constituted a particular kind of 
connexion called matrimonium morganaticam, or 
morganatic marriage. As the liberality of the hus- 
band was apt to be excessive, we find the amount 
limited by the Langobardian laws to one fourth of 
the bridegroom's substance. 

The marriage of widows, which in earlier times 
was actually illegal among some of the German tribes 2 , 
was evidently still looked upon with disfavour in the 
fifth century. According to the 44th pact of the 
Salic code " de Reipus" he who wished to marry a 
widow could only do so by publicly declaring his in- 
tention before the Thunginus at a public Mallus, by 
making compensation to her relations, and going 
through a number of formalities calculated to cool the 
ardor of the suitor. The widow too had to consult 
her own children by her former husband, and to pay 

1 Greg. Tur. ix. 20.: " De civitatibus vero . . . quas 
Gailesuindam, germanara Dormioe Brunichildis, tam in dote quam 
Morganegiba, hoc est, matutinali dono in Franciam venientem 
certum est adquisisse." Compare the At«7rapfoVta of the Greeks. 
Du Cange, sub voce Morgengabe : " Notandum vero donum istud 
voluntarium omnino fuisse, adeo ut raodo majus modo minus pro 
mariti erga conjugem suam majori vel minore amore et caritate, 


2 Tac. Germ. xix. : (t Melius quidem adhuc ea3 civitates, in 
quibus tantum virgines nubunt, et cum spe votoque uxoris semel 
transigitur. Sic ununi accipiunt maritum. . . ." 

442 THE FRANKS. [CaAr. X. 

back a portion of the dowry she had received from 
him, to his relations. 1 

The fine for adultery with a free woman was the 
same as for murder, 200 sols. Yet singularly enough, 
the rape of an ingenua puella was only sixty-two and a 
half sols, and where the connexion was formed spon- 
tanea voluntate, ambis convenientibus, it was reduced 
to forty-five sols. The same fine was levied where 
any one took away and married the betrothed of 
another man. 

All unions of this nature (whether by marriage 
or otherwise) between free and bond are prohibited 
by the severest penalties ; and, as might be expected, 
a marriage contracted with a slave was a far more 
heinous offence than a more temporary connexion. 
The ingenuus who publicly married a slave fell ipso 
facto into slavery himself. 2 If a free woman married a 
slave all her property fell to the royal fiscus, and any 
of her relations might kill her with impunity. If 
any person gave her bread or shelter, he was fined 
fifteen sols. The slave was broken on the wheel 
pessima cruciatu. 2 

If a puer regis or letus committed a rape upon 
an ingenua he was put to death. 

Smaller offences against the modesty of an in- 
genua were also severely punished. To stroke her hand 
or finger, in an amorous manner, was a crime to be 
atoned for by a fine of fifteen sols. If it was the 
arm, thirty sols, and if the bosom, thirty-five sols ; 

1 Lex Sal. xliv. et lxxi. 2 Lex Sal. xxv. 2. 

3 Lex Sal. Ixix. 


offences against the chastity of a female slave were 
considered chiefly in the light of an attack upon 
another man's property, and punished accordingly. 

The laws of inheritance which obtained among: the 
Franks were simple, but in some respects very peculiar. 
Neither Tacitus nor the Salic laws know anything of 
the practice of making wills ; the former indeed says 
expressly that they were not in use among the Ger- 
mans. The order of succession was for the most 
part the natural one, the children succeeded their 
parents *, with a preference in favour of the sons. 
Yet in some particulars a remarkable degree of favour 
is shown to the female sex. The old Germans re- 
garded the relation of a nephew to his uncle on the 
mother's side as a peculiarly close and almost sacred 
tie ; and traces of this sentiment are found in the 
Salic law. 2 In the chapter of de Alodis it is enacted 
that " if a man die and leave no children, if his mother 
be still living she shall succeed to the inheritance." 3 

1 Tac. Germ. xx. : " Heredes tamen successoresque sui cuique 
liberi ; et nullum testamentum." Leg. Sal. lix. : " De Alodis." 

2 Tac. Germ. xx. : " Sororuin filiis idem apud avunculus, qui 
apud patrem honor. Quidam sanctiorem arctioremque hunc 
nexuni sanguinis arbitrantur, et in accipiendis obsidibus magis 
exigunt," &c. Conf. Lex. Sal. lviii. 

3 Lex Sal. lix. . " De Alodis. I. Si quis mortuus fuerit et 
filios non diiniserit si mater sua superfuerit, ipsa in hereditatem 
succedat. II. Si mater non fuerit et fratrem aut sororem dimi- 
serit, ipsi in hereditatem succedant. III. Si isti non fuerint 
tunc soror matris in hereditatem succedat, et inde de illis genera- 
cionibus quicumque proximior fuerit ille in hereditatem succedat. 
IV. De terra vero nulla in muliere keredlttts est, seil ad virilem 
sexum qui fratres fuerint tota terra perteneat." 

414 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

" If the mother of the deceased be dead, then Lis 
father or sister shall succeed. 

" If the deceased leave neither father nor sister, then 
the sister of the mother shall succeed, or those who 
claim through her. But no woman could inherit land, 
by the Salic law ; although the enactments of Chilperic, 
which are incorporated with it, appear to have intro- 
duced certain alterations with regard to females." 1 

AVe have chiefly confined ourselves in the foregoing 
account, to the most ancient and important part of 
the Salic law. The introduction of Christianity ne- 
cessarily caused modifications, which do not, however, 
alter its general character. In the later additions to 
the code we find references to the Christian priesthood, 
the members of which are protected by very high 

That of a subdeacon was 300 sols ; of a deacon or 
monk 400 ; of a presbyter GOO ; and of a bishop 900. 
The immunities of the Church, and more particularly 
its right of affording sanctuary to fugitive criminals, 
are recognised, and heavy penalties are denounced 
against those who should disregard them. 

Want of space has obliged us to forego the consi- 

1 Lex Sal. lxxvii. 3. : Edictus domni Hilperichi regis pro 
tenore pacis. <c Simili modo placuit ac convenit, ut si cumque 
vicinos habens aut filios aut filias post obituru suum superstitutus 
fuerit quaincliu filii advixerint terra habeant, sicut et Lex Salica 
habet. Et si subito filios defuncti fuerint, Jilia simili modo acci- 
piant terras ipsas, sicut et filii si vivi fuissent aut babuisseut . . 
Et subito frater moriens frater non derelinquerit superstitem, tunc 
soror ad terra ipsa accedat possidenda" 


deration of many points in these first efforts of the 
German race to constitute civil society, which in 
themselves are far from being without interest even to 
the general reader. Among the customs referred to in 
the laws, which we have not noticed, is the ordeal by 
red-hot ploughshares. 

Allusions are also made to the crimes of poisoning, 
procuring abortion by drugs (in both of which arts 
the barbarians would find the Romans excellent in- 
structors), bribery, perjury, arson, and breach of pro- 
mise of marriage ; for all which offences very heavy 
fines were inflicted. 

The necessarily brief and superficial view which 
we have now taken of this remarkable code, may at 
least suffice to show how essentially German it is in 
all its leading characteristics, and how strong a family 
likeness it bears, not only to what we know of the 
laws and customs of other German tribes, — as the 
Saxons, Goths, and Allemani, but also to much that 
still exists among ourselves ; whose happiness it is to 
be more purely German in our institutions than any 
other nation. This being the case, it is a matter of 
surprise as well as regret that laws so essentially 
German should have been either originally composed 
in Latin, as some suppose, or at any rate very early 
deprived of their national dress. And this regret has 
a deeper source than a mere preference for the national 
lansrua^e, rude as it might be, over the mongrel and 
decrepid latinity of a corrupted and declining race. 
The change of language took away the law from the 
hands and hearts of the people lor whom it was origi- 

446 THE FRANKS. [Chap. X. 

nail} 7 composed, and who had themselves administered 
it, and transferred it to the keeping of mere professional 
lawyers, who perverted it to their own selfish pur* 
poses. It facilitated the introduction of the Roman 
law, with all its servility, chicanery, and finesse. It 
quickened the Roman element in the Frankish empire, 
and thereby aided in bringing down the curse of 
Roman despotism upon mediaeval and modern 
Europe. The terrible consequences to the Germans 
of taking the laws out of the hands of the people 
themselves, and placing it, as a powerful instrument of 
oppression and self-aggrandisement, in the hands of 
an almost irresponsible few, had been already expe- 
rienced in the reim of Augustus ; when the Cherusci 
under Arminius, driven into rebellion chiefly by the 
t} T ranny of the Roman law, destroyed three imperial 
legions in the Teutoburgian forest. " Germany," says 
Florus 1 , " might have been reduced, if the barbarians 
could have borne our vices as well as our commands. . 
For the Germans, beaten rather than subdued, looked 
with more suspicion on our morals than our arms." 

And again he says, " Varus dared to call a public 
assembly, and to try causes in the camp, as if he could 
restrain the violence of the barbarians by the rods of 
the lictors and the voice of the herald (crier) ! But 
they who had been long mourning over their rusty 
swords and their inactive horses, as soon as they beheld 
the toga, and the laws more cruel than the sword, 
took up arms under the command of Arminius." 

1 Fieri Hist. iv. 12. 


And afterwards, when speaking of the destruction 
of Varus, the same historian reports, " that nothing 
in that terrible defeat was more cruel, nothing more 
intolerable than the insults of the barbarians, which 
were more especially directed against the lawyers. They 
tore out the eyes of some and cut off the hands of 
others. They sewed up the mouth of one, after tear- 
ing out his tongue, which a barbarian holding in his 
hand, said, < Cease at length to hiss, viper ! ' " 

448 THE PRANKS. [Chap. XL 



Our knowledge of the history of a nation remains 
very incomplete until we have learned the nature and 
forms of its religion. If we would really know the 
character of a people, we must acquaint ourselves 
with the subjects which occupied the gravest and 
deepest thoughts of the wise among them, with the 
faith which awakened the fancy, touched the con- 
science, and moved the will of the general mass. 

The influence exercised by the Christian religion 
and the Roman Catholic Church in the reconstruction 
of society out of the ruins of the Roman world, was so 
predominant, that ecclesiastical history can alone lay 
open to us the foundations of some of the most 
remarkable institutions of the Middle Ages. The 
Franks in particular, who occupy so large a space in 
mediaeval history, were early brought into close con- 
nexion with the Church, and were more deeply con- 
cerned in its development, more directly influenced 
by its forms and spirit, than any contemporary 
nation. The grasping ambition, the great military 
talents, the craft and cruelty of Clovis, would not have 


sufficed to make him master of the vast empire he 
bequeathed to his successors had he not linked his 
fortunes to those of the Catholics, whose indomitable 
spirit, and fervent zeal (which outweighed all per- 
sonal and even national considerations), served his 
views as essentially as the most powerful armies. 
And, on the other hand, it was Clovis, humanly speak- 
ing, who decided the question of predominance be- 
tween the rival theological parties which divided the 
Christian world. Orthodoxy and Frankish domina- 
tion advanced, side by side, to victory over kindred, 
but not the less hostile, tribes and creeds. When the 
former made a convert, the latter gained a subject ; 
and when a neighbouring nation yielded to the 
Frankish arms, the landmarks of Catholic Christen- 
dom were extended at the expense of Arians or 
heathens. " Your good fortune," says B. Avitus of 
Vienna, in a letter to Clovis, " nearly concerns us ; 
as often as you fight, we conquer." x " If," says 
Clovis, " we acquire the friendship of the servants of 
God, and exalt them with honours, and show our 
veneration for them by obedience, we trust that we 
shall continually improve the condition of our king- 
dom, and obtain both temporal glory, and a country 
in the kingdom of heaven." 2 

This close alliance, resulting from a clear percep- 
tion of common interests and mutual advantages, 
was maintained for ages, and crowned with signal 
and glorious success. If Clovis rose to dominion with 


1 Vid. Ep. Aviti Ep. Yienn. ad Chlodov. Bouquet iv. p. 49. 

2 Precept. Chlod. pio monast. Reora. (ap. Bouq. iv. p. 615.) 

G G 

450 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XT. 

the rising fortunes of the Catholics, Pepin and Charle- 
magne received no slight assistance in their brilliant 
career, from that central and despotic power in the 
Church, which they were chiefly instrumental in 
bestowing on the Bishop of Rome. 

The suddenness with which the Salian Franks, 
after their settlement in Gaul, appear to have de- 
serted the time-honoured superstitions of their fore- 
fathers, and adopted the creed of a race whom they 
despised, has already been remarked upon. Our 
surprise at this phenomenon will decrease as our 
knowledge of the circumstances attending their con- 
version to Christianity is enlarged, A deeper con- 
sideration of the matter too, while, on the one hand, 
it furnishes us with adequate reasons for the ra- 
pidity of the change, will convince us, on the other, 
that the transition from heathenism to Christianity 
was by no means so rapid in reality as in appearance. 
We shall not, indeed, endeavour to explain the con- 
version of the Franks, or any other nation, by mere 
human agency. All such attempts must fail, as they 
deserve to do ; yet it is always interesting to observe 
how the diffusion of that holy faith, which shall one 
day cover the earth, has been bound up by its Al- 
mighty Author with the fate of individuals and the 
progress of nations. 

When the Franks entered Gaul, their ancestral faith, 
which was peculiarly local in its character, had been 
greatly weakened by time and distance. They found a 
religion established there not only nobler and better 
in itself. — offering infinitely more to the intellect, 


the heart, and the soul, — but administered by able 
men, and decked with everything which could excite 
the fancy and captivate the sense. Under such cir- 
cumstances, it needed but the example of the king to 
lead thousands to genuine, and far more, of course, to 
nominal profession of the faith of Christ. 

To support the Catholic Church and to favour its 
ministers became a prominent feature in the policy of 
Clovis and his successors ; and all the rising power 
of the monarchy was exerted in its behalf. Clovis 
founded his hope of success in a great measure on 
the good will of the saints and priests, and punished 
with death a soldier who had taken a little hay from 
the territory of St. Martin of Tours. 

Heathenism was now subjected to the same perse- 
cution which it had formerly inflicted, to the sorrow 
of the enlightened and truly pious 1 , and to the infinite 
detriment of Christianity itself. Even under the Ro- 
man emperors, the right and duty of bringing men 
by force into the Church of Christ had been main- 
tained by many of the most distinguished theologians 
of the day. Thus Augustine, who had once thought 
it wrong to force men into Christianity, acknowledged 
himself convinced of the necessity of persecution. 

1 Hilarii Pictav. con. Auxentium Mediol liber init. Gieseler 
Kircheng. i. p. 596. : " At nuDC proh dolor ! divinam fidem 
suffragia terrena commendant. . . . Terret exiliis et carceribus 
Ecclesia, credique sibi cogit qua? exiliis et carceribus est credita." 
As early as the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius severe 
penalties were inflicted on those who apostatised from the Chris- 
tain faith. Vid. Cod. Theodos. lib. xvi. tit. vii. 1. 1. "His, qui 
ex Christianis Pagani facti sunt eripiatur facultas jusque test and i." 

a g 2 

452 THE FRANKS. TChap. XI. 

" The Lord himself," he says, " first orders that men 
should be bidden to his supper 1 , but afterwards com- 
pelled to come" " It is better," he says, in a former 
part of the same Epistle, " that men should be drawn 
by instruction to the worship of God, rather than 
driven by pain and the fear of punishment. But 
though the former " (those who are convinced), " are 
to be preferred, yet the latter are not to be neglected. 
For it has been profitable to many (as we have learned 
by experience), to be first coerced by fear and pain, 
that they might afterwards be instructed." 2 Leo the 
Great went still farther, and justified even the exe- 
cution of heretics and unbelievers. 

The same spirit animated the Frankish kings, from 
Clovis to Charlemagne. Childebert, as early as a.d. 
551, published a severe decree against those who 
should refuse to destroy their idols ; and the great 
apostle of Germany, Boniface, confesses that his mis- 
sionary efforts would have been of little avail had he 
not been backed by the sword of Carl Martel and 
Kino- Pepin. Nor was fear the only motive by which 
heathens were induced to assume the Christian name. 
We learn from ecclesiastical writers themselves, that 

1 Luke xiv. 23. Epist. Augustin. 185. ad Bonifac. sec. 21. 

2 With what relentless severity these dangerous and unchristian 
principles were carried out may be learned from another of Au- 
gustine's epistles. Epist. ad Donatum. Procons. African. " Unum 
solum est quod in tua justitia perti mescimus, ne forte — pro im- 
manitate facinorum, ac non potius pro lenitatis Christianas consi- 
deratione censeas coercendum. . . . Ex occasione terribilium 
judicum ac legam, ne in asterni judicii pcenas incidant corrigi eos 
cupitnus non necari^ 


bribery, both direct and indirect, was employed to 
influence the minds of the unbelieving. Both Euse- 
bius and Augustine bitterly complained of the multi- 
tudes who feigned to be converted solely from worldly 
motives. " How many," says the latter, " only seek 
Jesus that he may be of service to them in this life ! 
One man has some business on hand, he seeks the 
intercession of the clergy ; another is oppressed by a 
more powerful man than himself, he flies for refuge 
to the Church. . . . One man has one reason, 
another another. The Church is daily filled with 
such persons." The Emperor Constantine more es- 
pecially made frequent use of worldly advantage as 
a bait to induce the heathen to enter the pale of the 
Church ; and even gives directions to the bishops in 
what manner they may best employ such doubtful 
means of making; converts. 1 

No earthly power, however, would have succeeded 
in compelling men to turn at the word of command 
from heathenism to Christianity, had the change been 
really so great as the terms would seem to imply. 
The most blindly zealous must have soon discovered 
that religious convictions are not to be changed by 
threats of punishment, and that the civil power could 
at the most only compel men to listen to the instruc- 
tions, and to place themselves and their children under 
the influence of the priesthood. The conversion in 
the real sense of the word, took place, as it must ever 

1 Euseb. Vit. Constantini iii. c. 21. iv. 38, 39. 

r, c, 3 

454 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

do, slowly and gradually, after the merely formal ad- 
mission into the pale of the Church. It became an 
object, therefore, to make the first step as slight and 
easy as possible, — to cheat men, as it were, into their 
own advantage, by investing Christian truths with a 
heathen dress, and thus making them more attractive 
to the idolatrous convert. That this was the con- 
scious policy of some of the most eminent Churchmen 
of the age, is sufficiently proved by the epistle of 
St. Gregory the Great to the Abbot Mellitus, (by 
whom he sent instructions to Augustine, in Britain,) 
concerning the conduct to be observed in the conver- 
sion of the Saxons. In this epistle he strongly con- 
demns the practice of destroying the heathen tem- 
ples, and directs that they should be purified and 
" converted from the worship of demons to that of 
the true God," because, he urges, " the people will 
come more familiarly to places to which they are 
accustomed. " And since, he continues, " many oxen 
are wont to be offered up to the demons, some 
solemnity should be substituted for these sacrifices. 
As, for instance, on the day of the dedication of the 
church, or on the birthday of the holy martyr whose 
relics are placed in it, let tents be formed of boughs 
round those churches which were formerly heathen 
temples, and let the people celebrate a festival with 
religious banquets. The animals are then no longer 
sacrificed to the devil, but are killed for the wor- 
shippers' own food, to the praise of God." " For," 
he concludes, "it is without doubt impossible to 
deprive their rude minds of everything at once ; as 


he who endeavours to ascend some lofty place, must 
rise by gradual steps and not by leaps." x 

And thus were great numbers of persons brought 
into the Christian fold, unprepared and unconverted, 
— idolators in everything but name. The injurious 
consequences of this rash policy is observable through- 
out the whole history of the Frankish Church. When 
its zeal was relaxed by wealth and luxury, polytheism 
once more openly raised its head in many parts of 
the empire ; and, what was still more injurious to the 
best interests of religion, Christianity itself was de- 
based to the grovelling notions of the heathen, whose 
baneful superstitions were engrafted on the tree of 

Many writers have attempted to show much of 
the spirit of Greek and Roman mythology was 
brought at various periods into the Church, by the 
policy of adaptation consciously or unconsciously 
followed ; and how many of the corruptions which 
still deform the Roman Catholic Church may be 
clearly traced to this polluted source. We shall con- 
fine ourselves at present to pointing out a few re- 
markable passages in the Frankish history of Gregory, 
which clearly indicate the prevalence of unchristian 
superstitions, not only among the vulgar, but among 
the most learned and enlightened men of his age. 

It is evident from the history just referred to, from 
the Epistles of St. Gregory, and many other ecclesias- 
tical records, that the existence of the heathen gods 

1 Gre< y . M. lib. xi. Ep. 76. ad Mellitum Abbatem. 

g g 4 

456 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XL 

was not always denied by Christian believers, but that 
they were regarded as evil demons who imposed on the 
credulous to the destruction of their souls. Gregory 
of Tours makes no secret of his belief in all kinds of 
auspices, omens, and prodigies, and betrays through- 
out his history a degree of simple and thoughtless 
credulity equalling anything to be met with in 
Herodotus or Livy. Among other methods of pene- 
trating into futurity, which he describes and made 
use of himself, were the Sortes Sanctorum, in which 
three of the sacred books, — the Prophets, the Gos- 
pels, and the Epistles, — were placed upon the altar, 
and an omen taken from the sense of the passages 
which first met the eye when the volumes were 
opened. 1 

In another place he mentions a certain Claudius, 
who practised auspices, ut u mos barbarorum est," 
which last words may seem perhaps to imply a want 
of belief in their efficacy. Yet he relates, with the 
greatest nicety and the fullest faith, prodigies of 
exactly the same kind as terrified the Roman city 
in the Second Punic War. 2 On one occasion he 
tells us a shining star appeared in the middle of 
the moon ; but what this magnum prodigium por- 
tended he confesses his inability to say. The 
plagues which desolated the country in the sixth 
century are all announced beforehand by preter- 
natural appearances. 3 These phenomena are of 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 16. 

2 Ibid. iv. 3]., iv. 31., v. 34., vi. 14., vii. 11. 

3 Ibid. v. 24. 


various kinds. Sometimes the household vessels of 
different persons are found to be marked with 
mysterious characters, which cannot by any means 
be effaced. Kays of light are seen in the north, — 
three suns appear in the heavens, — the mountains 
send forth a mysterious bellowing, — the lights in a 
church are extinguished by birds, — the trees bear 
leaves and fruit unseasonably, — serpents of immense 
size fall from the sky; "and among other signs," he 
adds, " appeared some which are wont to foreshadow 
either the death of the king or the destruction 
of the country." 1 

We are less inclined, perhaps, to be astonished at 
the extraordinary miracles related to have been per- 
formed by saints 2 , or the relics of holy martyrs, and 
even by those Avho had no claim to be considered 
either saints or martyrs. 3 But some of these imply 
a grossness of superstition which appears inconsistent 
with the very lowest views of Christianity. The 
people of Tours and Poitiers almost came to blows 
for the possession of the corpse of St. Martin, and 
among the arguments brought forward by the former 
in favour of their claim was this ; that while the saint 
had lived in Poitou he had raised two dead men, 
while since he had been Bishop of Tours he had only 
raised one. " What, therefore," they added, " he did 
not fulfil while alive, he must make up when he is 
dead." 4 So strong was the belief in the miraculous 

1 De mirac. S. Martin. (Bouquet, ii. p. 469.) 

2 Greg. Tur. ix. 5. v. 24. vol. 8. 

3 Greg. Tur. iv. 34. 4 Greg. i. 43. 

458 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XL 

powers of relics, even when obtained in an unlawful 
manner, that Mummolus and Guntram-Boso actually 
stole a finger of the martyr Sergius. 1 

The same Guntram-Boso consults an old woman 
" habentem spiritum phytonis " ; and Queen Frede- 
gunda, who does not scruple to hire priests as mur- 
derers and to put bishops to death, imputes the 
sickness of her children to the incantations of a 
sorceress. 2 

The gravest questions were decided in this age by 
the test of various ordeals. A Catholic deacon and 
an Arian priest, who could agree in nothing else, 
agreed at last to decide their controversy by throwing 
a ring into boiling water, to see who could fetch 
it out with the least injury to himself. We need 
hardly say that the spiritual wager was won by the 
champion of orthodoxy, who groped in the scalding 
water for an hour without experiencing the slightest 
inconvenience. 3 

Yet even in these dark times, when the good seed 
which had been sown in the hearts of men seemed 
choked by the rank growth of superstition, the hea- 
venly nature of Christianity was clearly manifested, 
and " wisdom was justified of her children." The poor 
and the sick, the prisoner and the slave, the widow 

1 Greg. vii. 31. 

2 On another occasion, when Bishop Briccius of Tours, a man re- 
nowned for the purity of his life, was suspected by his flock of 
being the father of his laundress's new-born child ; the Bishop 
sent for the child, then thirty days old, and questioned it publicly. 
The child replied, " non es tu pater metes" Greg. Tur. xi. 1. 

3 De Gloria Marfyruru, i. p. 81. 


and the orphan obtained a claim upon the sympathy 
and support of their more fortunate fellow-men,— a 
claim which heathenism, with its characteristic heart- 
lessness, had always rejected and despised. The 
gracious invitation of the Saviour to the weary and 
heavy-laden of every class was still heard in the 
worst of times, and embodied in many a law which 
loosened the fetters of the captive, and cheered the 
slave with a returning sense of common humanity. 
The very superstitions we deplore were some of 
them signs of misdirected grace, — of a striving 
in the hearts of men towards God, " If haply 
they might feel after him and find Him." If the 
priests were regarded with a superstitious and often 
undeserved reverence, it was because they were sup- 
posed to hold near communion with the unseen world, 
and to be the mediators betAveen man and his Saviour. 
If martyrs and saints were worshipped, it was because 
they were martyrs, because they were saints; because 
they were looked upon as men who had sacrificed the 
ease and pleasure of their lives, and even life itself, to 
benefit the poor, to preach the Gospel, and to bear 
witness to the truth. No man expected to see the 
laws of nature suspended by a miracle in favour of a 
powerful king or a wealthy noble, or sought to possess 
himself of the relics of a mighty warrior; it was the 
prayer of the righteous man alone which could avail 
them ; and the bones of the undefiled in his way, 
that brought blessing and protection to the house 
or church in which they rested. A new and benign 
influence was felt throughout society ; a prospect of 

460 THE FRANKS. TChap. XI. 

future dignity and happiness was opened to all, 
before the glory of which the renown of the warrior 
and the majesty of the king grew pale and dim; as 
co-heirs of which the monarch and the slave might 
easily forget the distance which separates them here. 
To the power of the sword, to the power of intellect 
and wealth, the power of holiness was added ; the 
pre-eminently good and holy man became a great and 
powerful man, and however low his origin, however 
mean his bodily endowments, he took an equal place 
before the world with the warrior and the noble. 

The exaggerated asceticism of which we find so 
many instances in the history of Gregory — the desire 
of seeking seclusion and solitude in the cloister or the 
desert, of withdrawing from all the endearments and 
pleasures of family and social life, of foregoing the com- 
mon bodily comforts which nature herself demands — 
proceeded from earnest though erroneous views of 
God and duty. And there was much in the circum- 
stances of the times, if not to justify, at least to pal- 
liate the conduct of the Christian who fled from this 
present world, instead of striving to live piously and 
godly in it. The frequency of crime — the universality 
of strife, oppression, sensuality and bloodshed — ren- 
dered it next to impossible for one who lived in the 
world to cherish the spirit, or conform to the precepts, 
of the Christian religion. Asceticism was the solemn 
practical protest against the vices of the age, and drew 
the attention of men to nobler principles and loftier 
hopes than those which prevailed in the world around 
them. It is no doubt true, and much to be deplored, 


that the reverence and love which followed the 
genuine recluse for conscience sake into his solitary 
cell, excited the vanity and ambition of a host of 
miserable imitators, who wooed the world by pretend- 
ing to contemn it ; but we are not to judge of the 
worth of what is genuine by the vileness of what is 
counterfeit ; nor ought we to deny our own loving 
admiration to those mistaken, perhaps, but earnest 
and truthful souls, who sought by meditation and 
prayer to prepare themselves for Heaven, and in some 
degree to anticipate its joys. 

Among the more noted of those who retired from 
the enjoyment of all that the world can afford to the 
seclusion of a religious life, was Clotilda, the widow of 
Clovis, and mother of three of his successors. How 
far, in her case, the retirement was the result or the 
cause of religious feelings, the history of Gregory 
leaves us, to say the least, to feel uncertain. 1 

Eadegundio also, the Thuringian princess, whom 
Clotaire had taken prisoner, and compelled to become 
his wife, was doubtless glad to escape from the bloody 
splendour of her husband's court, to the quiet of a con- 
vent which she reared at her own expense in Poitou; 
"and so adorned," says the historian, " by prayer and 
abstinence, by vigils and alms, that she was held in 
the highest estimation by the people." 2 Still more 
remarkable is the well-known case of Carloman, the 
son of Carl Martel, and brother of Pepin, who, as we 
cannot doubt, from the purest motives, resigned the 

i Greg. Tur. iii. 18. 2 Greg. Tur. iii. 7. 

462 THE FRANKS. [Chat. XI. 

purple for the cowl, and sought by fasting, prayer, 
and alms to atone for his many evil deeds. Many 
other interesting examples of genuine and lively faith, 
manifested in a steadfast abstinence even from the 
most lawful worldly pleasures, may be gleaned from 
the curious and interesting pages of Gregory of 
Tours. 1 

Nor amidst all the errors and superstitions in which 
the work of this writer abounds, can we fail to ob- 
serve the indications of a better knowledge of the real 
nature of the Christian religion. A sharp distinction 
is frequently made by him between the true holiness 
which seeks no eye but that of God and the vain self- 
seeking asceticism of the pretender. 2 

Xowhere do we find more pleasing pictures of a 
faithful bishop, or more hearty condemnations of 
those who disgraced the sacred office. Avitus, Bishop 
of Auvergne, is described as one " who dispensed 
justice to the people, relief to the poor, comfort to the 
widow, and £he greatest support and help to his 
pupils." 3 Nicetius, Bishop of Lyons, " lived, like the 
apostle, as far as possible, in charity with all men ; so 
that the Lord, who is charity itself, might be dis- 
cerned in his bosom. For though he were moved to 
indignation against any one for his negligence, yet if 
he amended his ways, Nicetius received the penitent 
ao;ain, as if he had never offended. For he chastened 
the wrong-doers, and forgave the repentant sinner. He 
was bountiful in almsgiving and diligent in labour ; he 

i Greg. Tur. i. 39. i. 42. 2 Q reg< iv# H 

3 Gre^. Tur. iv. 35. 


was active and busy in building churches and houses, 
in tilling the fields and planting vineyards, and yet in 
all these employments he never neglected the duty of 
prayer." 1 

We have the greater satisfaction in referring to 
these examples of the good and faithful men who 
adorned the Church in this dark age, because in the 
brief account which we now proceed to give of the 
rise of the secular power of the clergy, and the decline 
of discipline and morals among them consequent 
upon the growing wealth of the Church, we shall have 
to speak of a very different kind of bishop. The 
pain, however, which we feel at the contemplation of 
pride, licentiousness, and cruelty, in the ministers of 
Christ's religion, is relieved by the thought that it was 
just the least worthy portion of the priesthood, — those 
who were tempted by their wealth and power, to con- 
tract the vices, and embroil themselves in the feuds of 
the laity, — which is brought most prominently forward 
into the light of history. Qui bene latuit, bene vixit ; 
and of those who in a humbler sphere endeavoured 
simply to do their duty in that spiritual office to 
which it had pleased God to call them, little or no- 
thing found its way into the annals of their country ; 
and we have good reason to believe that amidst the 
too general corruption of these times, there were 
always some in whose hearts the life blood of the 
Church was treasured and preserved. 

The Church and its ministers played, as we have 
already said, so prominent a part even in the secular 

1 Gre<r. Tur. iv, 36. 

464 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XL 

and political history of Charlemagne and his pre- 
decessors, that it will be necessary to trace the exter- 
nal progress of this mighty institution. When Clovis 
and his heathen followers had achieved the conquest 
of Gaul, they found the Christian Church the most, 
we may say the only, powerful and flourishing insti- 
tution in the country. The days of persecution were 
long passed away, and the disciples of that holy 
faith of which the great Roman historian had so 
lately spoken, as " exitiabilis superstitio" l already sat 
on the throne of the Csesars. The dangers of the 
Church were now of a different — though not less for- 
midable — kind than those which had threatened it in 
the days of Nero and Diocletian. The Christian em- 
perors, not knowing what spirit they were of, had 
used the law and the sword against those who dared 
to remain in their heathen errors ; and had cor- 
rupted the Church by the admixture of insincere 
and interested converts. The external well-being: of 
the Church and its ministers had been also sedu- 
lously cared for ; and the perils of luxury had suc- 
ceeded to the privations of those who had left all 
to follow Christ. The lands bestowed upon the 
Church, either by the emperors themselves or by 


1 Tac. Hist. xv. 44. : " Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos, 
et qucesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos, per flagitia invisos, vulgus 
Christianos adpellabat. Auctor nominis ejus Cbristus, Tiberio 
imperitante, per Procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus 
erat : repressaque in praesens, exitiabilis superstitio rursus erum- 
pebat, non niodo per Judaeam, originem ejus mali, sed per urbem 
etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt cele- 


private persons, were exempted from many of the 
usual imposts ; while the clergy were freed from 
almost all those services to the state which pressed 
with such crushing weight upon their fellow-subjects. 1 
From having been the victims, they became the fa- 
vourites of power ; and everything was done which 
could render their position safe and honourable. 
The sanctity of their persons protected them in 
scenes of the greatest violence ; and they were raised 
above the persecution of their enemies, and too often 
above the reach of legitimate authority, by the erec- 
tion of distinct tribunals for the trial of ecclesiastics. 
As the universally acknowledged censors of the morals 
of both high and low, they exercised an influence, 
we might say a power, of almost unlimited extent. 
No wonder then that the priestly office became the 
object of desire to thousands of eager candidates. The 
Church, in fact, was, even in a worldly sense, the 
only secure retreat from the misery and ruin in 
which the falling empire was involving the whole 
Roman world ; and so preponderating were the ad- 
vantages enjoyed by its ministers, and so great the 
number of those who needed the shelter it afforded, 
that even before the year 320 a.d. the Emperor 
Constantine was compelled to prohibit by enact- 
ments the greater portion of his subjects from 
taking holy orders. 2 At the time of the Frankish 

1 The "munera curialia " spoken of above, p. 369. 

2 He enacted that " no Decurion or son of a Decurion, nor 
even any one possessed of private property, and therefore well 
suited for the discharge of public offices, should take refuge in the 


466 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

conquest of Gaul, the Gallican Church had not only 
great privileges and extensive influence, bat consider- 
able landed possessions. Yet these could not at that 
time have been immoderately great, as they after- 
wards became, for the Arian faith prevailed through 
more than half Gaul; and in the old Salian and 
Ripuarian lands Christianity, under any name, had 
been almost entirely extirpated. 1 Whatever the 
extent of the Church lands may have been, they 
were probably respected by the invaders ; or, if the 
rights of the clergy suffered any diminution in the 
first confusion, the speedy conversion of Clovis and 
his warriors soon brought them ample reparation. 
Converts are proverbially liberal in support of their 
new opinions ; and it was in the reign of Clovis 
that the great tide of prosperity began to set in 
towards the Church. The kings of the Franks, both 
good and bad, and especially Clovis and his sons, 
Guntram and Da Robert, did much to enrich the 

name and obedience of the priesthood." Cod. Theod. xvi. 2, 3. : 
" Nullum deinceps Decurionem, vel ex Decurione progenitum, vel 
etiam instructum idoneis facultatibus, atque obeundis publicis 
muneribus opportunism, ad clericorum nomen obsequiumque con- 
fugere : sed eos de cetero in defunctorum duntaxat clericorum loca 
subrogari, qui for tuna tenues neque muneribus civilibus teneantur 

1 Kilian, the Irish missionary, preached the gospel near "Wiirz- 
burg (in Bavaria), the inhabitants of which were in his time 
worshippers of Diana, and his endeavours to convert them cost 
him his life in a.d. 689. Vid. Acta S. S. ad. d. 8 Jul. The in- 
habitants of the Ardennes were converted to Christianity by 
Bishop Hubert, in the middle of the eighth century after Christ. 
Eleutherii, i. 20. Feb. 3. 187. Roth, p. 66. 


clergy ; but infinitely more was bestowed by private 
persons, who were excited to an almost wanton 
liberality by the hopes and fears of superstition. 1 
Nor were the priests contented with the purely spon- 
taneous offerings of their barbarian converts. The 
strongest stimulants were employed to quicken their 
pious generosity ; and Charlemagne himself complains 
that his bishops and abbots allured and frightened 
foolish people into giving up their goods, by glowing 
descriptions of the joys of heaven, and the pangs of 
hell. The regular trade which had long been carried 
on in relics is also denounced, and the base motives 
and unwarrantable ends of those who engaged in it, 
are exposed in the Capitularies of the same great 
monarch. 2 

1 The maxim was constantly repeated, " Sicut aqua extinguit 
ignem, ita eleemosyna extinguit peccatum." Muratori Ant. Ital. 

v. 628. 

2 Capit duplex Aquisgranense anno 811. (Mon. Germ. iii. 
167. c. v.) : " Inquirendum, — si ille seculum dimissum habeat, qui 
quotidie possessiones suas augere quolibet modo qualibet arte 
non cessat, suadendo de coelestis regni beatitudine, comminando 
de a±terno supplicio inferni, et sub nomine Dei aut cujuslibet 
sancti tarn divitem quam pauperem, qui simplicioris naturae sunt, 
et minus docti atque cauti inveniuntur, si rebus suis exspoliant, et 
legitimos heredes eorum exheredant, ac per hoc plerosque ad fla- 
gitia et scelera, propter inopiam — compellunt, ut quasi necessario 
furta et latrocinia exerceant. C. vi. : Iterum inquirendum quo 
modo seculum reliquisset, qui cupiditate ductus propter adipiscen- 
das res, quas alium videt possidentem, homines ad perjuria et falsa 
testimonia precio conducit. C. vii. : Quid de his dicendum, qui 
quasi ad amorem Dei et sanctorum — ossa et reliquias sanctorum 
corporum de loco ad locum transferunt, ibique novas basilicas con- 
struunt, et quoscunque potuerint, ut res suas illuc tradant instan- 
tissime adhortantur." 

n h - 

468 THE FKANKS. [Chap. XI. 

Yet we are not to impute this eagerness on the 
part of the clergy to accumulate landed property 
entirely to the lust of wealth, and the carnal pleasures 
it bestows. There were other and more legitimate 
motives, inherent in the times and circumstances, 
which greatly quickened the natural cupidity of the 
human heart. We have seen that the accumulation 
of land in a few hands had commenced in Gaul pre- 
viously to the Frankish conquest. Nor did the pro- 
cess cease when that event had taken place ; on the 
contrary, the Germans soon began to rival the Gauls in 
adding field to field ; and lost, in consequence, much 
of their old love for liberty and equality. In such a 
race the clergy could not without danger be alto- 
gether left behind. The instinct of self preservation, 
as well as the dictates of ambition, prompted them to 
strive after the possession of land, as the only anchor 
of safety in those troubled times ; as the necessary 
condition of the external stability, influence, and pro- 
gress of the Christian Church. No one can read the 
annals of that troubled period without the reflection 
that the Church, without land or money, unwarlike 
in its very nature, and unable to command or buy 
protection, would soon have been despised and 
trodden under foot. 

The clergy, therefore, had every motive to accumu- 
late wealth, which could act upon their minds, whe- 
ther as individuals or as members of an order. And 
under such a stimulus they not only used, but shame- 
fully abused, the advantages they derived from their 
own superiority and the gross ignorance and super- 


stition of the laity. At the end of the seventh cen- 
tury, it is calculated that at least one third of the 
soil of Gaul was the property of the Church. 1 The 
modes in which these enormous acquisitions had been 
made were very various, but seldom very honourable. 
The greater part was derived from the testamentary 
dispositions of those who purchased eternal happi- 
ness at the expense of their heirs. Many gave up 
their estates during their life-time, either in full 
and immediate possession, or on condition of enjoy- 
ing the use. The motive of the latter kind of grant 
was not always a religious one. Many sought to 
secure from rapacious neighbours what they felt 
their own inability to defend, by making it a part 
of the inviolable property of some guardian saint. 
Vast sums were collected from the superstitious by 
the exhibition and sale of the bones and relics of de- 
parted saints. Nor were the darker means of forgery 
and perjury left unemployed. So common indeed ap- 
pears to have been the practice of forging testaments 
and deeds of gift, that the notaries were compelled to 
take an oath that they would not assist in the prepa- 
ration of false documents. 2 

The disappointed and defrauded heirs made all the 
resistance in thdr power, and the civil authority was 
continually enacting laws to check the alarming flow 

1 Montesquieu, Esp. des Loix, xxxi. 10. : " Le clerge recevoit 
tant, qu'il taut que dans les trois Races on lui ait donne plusieurs 
fois tous les biens du royaume." 

2 Greg. Tur. x. 19. Of the 360 Merovingian Diplomata given 
in Brequigny (Dipl. ad Res Franc, spect., Paris, 1791), about 130 
are considered false. Vid. Roth, p. 2o7. 

h n 3 

470 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

of wealth into the coffers of the Church — but in vain. 
The threat of excommunication was sufficient to 
strike terror into the boldest heart. And this ter- 
rible engine was used not only against those who 
really encroached upon the acknowledged rights of 
the Church, but against every one, without distinc- 
tion, who attempted to recover property which had 
once passed into the hands of the clergy. The sepa- 
rate jurisdiction for spiritual persons rendered it 
extremely difficult to bring their mal -practices to 
light ; but even when the clearest proofs were given 
that documents had been forged, or obtained by 
improper means, it was still regarded as a heinous 
offence to seek for restitution. 1 

Nor was it only the pious believer, or the conscience- 
stricken sinner who dreaded the denunciations of the 
Church ; the most irreligious could not be indifferent 
to excommunication, to which the civil power had 
attached the heaviest temporal penalties. " Let him," 
runs the decree of Childebert, " who refuses to obey 
his bishop, and has been excommunicated, endure 
the eternal condemnation of God, and moreover let 
him be excluded for ever from our palace ; and let 
him who is unwilling to bear the chastenings (medica- 
nienta) of his bishop be deprived of all his property 

1 Concil. Lugdun. ii. can. 2. (an. 567. Sirmond. i. p. 326.) : " Id 
specialiter statuentes, ut etiamsi quorumcumque religiosorum 
voluntas, aut necessitate, aut simulicitate aliquid a legum scecu- 
larium ordine visa fuerit discrepare, voluntas tamen defunctorum 
debent inconcussa manere, et in omnibus Deo propitio, custodiri." 
Conf. Cone. Aurel. iii. can. 22 . at Cone. Vasense i. c. 4. 


in favour of his lawful heirs." x Thus destitution and 
disgrace in this world were added to eternal damnation 
in the next. 

The increase of ecclesiastical wealth was moreover 
greatly accelerated by the celibacy of the priesthood, 
which prevented the returns of property once pos- 
sessed by ecclesiastics into its natural channels. 

Even the private property of the clergy generally, 
though not necessarily, went to enrich the religious 
institutions to which they had more particularly be- 
longed. It was not, indeed, legally incumbent upon a 
bishop or abbot to bequeath his wealth to his cathe- 
dral or his abbey, but it was very much at variance 
with the general custom to dispose of it in any other 
way. 2 And thus the Church, continually making 
fresh acquisitions, and resigning little or nothing, 
attained to wonderful results in a comparatively short 
space of time. 

The danger arising to the State from this per- 
petual drain upon the resources of the country was 
clearly seen long before any attempt was made to pro- 
vide a remedy. Chilperic, on whom, as we have seen 
above, the annalists have bestowed the epithets of 
" tyrant " and " second Nero" (which many a monarch 

1 Decretio Childeberti Regis, an. 595. ii. : " Qui vero Episco- 
pum suura noluerit audire, et excommunicatus fuerit perennem 
condemnationem apud Deum sustineat (this many would have 
braved), et insuper de palatio nostro sit omnino extra?ieus y et 
omnes facilitates suas parentibus legitimes amittat, qui noluit 
sacerdotis sui medicamenta sustinere." It might be disputed 
whether this decree was intended to contain a climax or a bathos. 

2 Cone. Agathens. can, 33. (an. 506). Sirmond. i. p. 167. 

ir n i 

472 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

who deserved them more has escaped), complains that 
the royal treasury was empty, and that all its riches 
had passed into the hands of the Church. " None/ 7 
he says, " truly reign but the bishops ; our dignity 
has departed and is transferred to them." 

Gregory of Tours 1 accuses this monarch of destroy- 
ing the wills which were made in favour of the Church, 
and adds that he constantly blasphemed the bishops, 
and turned them into ridicule in his private hours. But 
that it was not only men of depraved character and 
enemies of religion, like Chilperic, who brought such 
charges against the clergy, may be gathered from the 
language of Charlemagne himself, at a later period, 
even after the discipline of the Church had been 
greatly improved by Boniface. " Do you call that 
serving God," — he says to the bishops and abbots, 
in the capitulary to which we have just referred, 
— " when you do not even scruple to seduce the 
people into perjury and falsehood in order to in- 
crease your riches ? " Such language from the lips 
of a pious and orthodox monarch like Charlemagne 
reveals to us the real state of the case, and leads us to 
attribute some degree of truth even to the angry and 
envious words of Chilperic. 

The increased dignity and influence, which accrued 
to the whole ecclesiastical body from the accumu- 
lation of wealth, were chiefly centred in the per- 
sons of the bishops and abbots. Throughout the 
entire history of the Merovingian and Carlovingian 

1 Grog. Tur. vi. 46 


dynasties, the Catholic bishops stand forth in bold re- 
lief as the most wealthy and influential personages in 
the state. They are constantly brought under our 
notice as the counsellors and, not unfrequently, as the 
censors of kings ; as the companions, on a footing of 
superiority, of the haughtiest and most powerful seig- 
niors ; as leaders in every important political move- 
ment. Like the rich and great among the laity, they 
appeared surrounded by vassals to whom their will was 
law, and numerous dependants lived upon their lands 
in a state of hereditary servitude. Within the limits 
of the Church itself, they were irresponsible masters 
of the inferior clergy, through whom they exercised a 
wide and irresistible influence over the people. And 
to all the other advantages, temporal and spiritual, 
which they enjoyed in so remarkable a combination 
was added the enormous power of superior mental 
cultivation. No wonder then that the prelates were 
objects of envy even to a king, and that a bishop's see 
was a mark of ambition to the highest and noblest in 
the land. 

We shall endeavour as briefly as possible to trace 
the steps by which the dignitaries of the Frankish 
Church attained to the proud position in which we 
find them even under the Merovingian kings. 

At the time of the Frankish conquest the Gallican 
bishops were possessed of considerable influence, but 
their power was principally a moral power : and for 
this reason perhaps it alone suffered neither overthrow 
nor diminution from the barbarian invaders. The rela- 
tive position of the bishops both to conquerors and 

474 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

conquered was a singularly favourable one. The 
Romance population, who had always respected them 
as overseers and rulers of the Church, could not but 
regard them with increased reverence, after seeing 
that theirs was the only power which the invaders did 
not and could not overcome. To the Franks, on the 
other hand, they appeared as the principal representa- 
tives of Roman civilisation — which, even in its ruins, 
they could not but respect — and as the possessors in an 
eminent degree of the power which knowledge gives, 
— a power which is all the more formidable to the 
vulgar, because its nature and extent are hidden from 
their sight. 

After no long time, as we have seen, the bishops 
took a still more advantageous position with regard to 
the new inhabitants, in consequence of the conversion 
of Clovis to the Christian faith. Their influence with 
the Gallic population rendered their willing co-ope- 
ration in the task of governing his newly acquired 
territories of the highest importance to the king; 
while their superior abilities and greater knowledge of 
affairs made them by far the most useful counsellors 
to whom he could apply in all the weightier matters 
of religion, law, and policy. 

The earlier Merovingians had no occasion to feel 
either suspicion or jealousy of the rising power of the 
Catholic clergy, who needed the friendly support of the 
civil power in their struggle with their Arian rivals. 
The Church and the State had in fact the greatest 
interest in raising and strengthening each other ; and 
as long as the former abstained from all pretensions of 


independence, the haughty Merovingians did not 
scruple to manifest the utmost reverence towards the 
dignified clergy. 1 

To this, which we may call the legitimate influence 
of the episcopal office, was added the material strength 
which the bishop acquired as the administrator of the 
ever increasing wealth of the Church. In his hands 
was the exclusive management of all Church lands 
within his diocese ; and though he was bound in the 
performance of his functions to adhere to established 
rules and customs, and to apply a certain portion of 
the funds to certain purposes, he had still a very wide 
field for the exercise of an almost arbitrary power. 
He could not of course, alienate the landed property 
of the Church, or burden it with lasting liabilities. 
It was incumbent upon him to provide for the neces- 
sary repairs of ecclesiastical buildings, the mainte- 
nance of the inferior clergy, the relief of the poor, 
and the decent celebration of religious services. But 
neither the salaries of his subalterns nor the services 
of the churches, increased in amount and splendour in 
proportion with the rapidly increasing means which 
were placed in the bishop's hands. His acknowledged 
share of the entire income of his diocese was a lion's 
one : and of the surplus which remained after defray- 

1 Vita Severini Agaun. c. 6. Mabill. i. 569. (ap. Roth. p. 265.). 
When Severin approached Clovis, for the purpose of healing him, 
the king worshipped him. " Et adoravit earn rex" When Ger- 
manus, Bishop of Paris, had one day been made to wait too long 
in the antechamber of King Childebert, the latter was (naturally) 
taken ill in the night. The bishop was sent for ; and when he 
came, " Rex adlambit Sanrti palliohun" 

476 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XL 

ing the regular expenses he was irresponsible master. 
Was he a pious and self-denying shepherd of the flock 
of Christ, he spent it in works of charity, in in- 
structing the ignorant, in relieving the condition of 
the wretched serfs and slaves who groaned under 
the tyranny of brutal owners. But if otherwise, 
he might use it, as we see that the majority did, in 
adding external splendour to the episcopal office, in 
gathering around him military vassals and servile de- 
pendents, and in vying in luxury and pride with the 
gayest and proudest of the laity. 

The humble subordination of the inferior clergy 
to their spiritual head was secured by their absolute 
dependence upon him not only for their advancement 
in the Church, but even for present comfort and well 
being. A life interest, indeed, in a portion of land 
was generally allotted to them ; but this afforded little 
protection against a tyrannical bishop, who could sus- 
pend them from their office, take away their land for 
disobedience, and even subject them to imprisonment 
and flogging. 1 

As we may suppose, however, the almost arbitrary 

1 Vid. Cone. Narbon. an. 589. can. 5, 6. 10. 13. (Sirmond. i. 
399.). According to Concil. Matisc. i. an. 581, c. viii. (Sirmond. 
i. 372.), and Greg. v. 51., and viii. 22., the bishop could inflict 
punishment, and a certain number of lashes (Cone. Matisc. says 
thirty-nine). Bishop Joseph, of Le Mans, caused several of his 
clergy, who had complained of him to the king, to be whipped, 
blinded, and mutilated. " Prrecepit ipsos sacerdotes .... fla- 
gellar, atque (quod pejus est dicere) eaecare et castrare." — Episcop. 
Cenonu c. xx. Mabillon, Analectu, p. 291. Conf. Greg. Tur. 
iv. 36. 


power thus exercised, and too often abused, by the 
bishops and abbots was not established without violent 
opposition on the part of the sufferers. And since 
the latter had no legal grounds on which to base 
their opposition, their resistance naturally took the 
form of sudden and violent rebellion, Avhich was fre- 
quently accompanied by bloodshed, and even murder. 1 
In the main, however, the bishops triumphed, and the 
presbyters and deacons were gradually compelled to 
submit to an authority from which appeal was ex- 
tremely difficult, and resistance, however successful 
for the moment, certain to bring ruin on the heads of 
those who offered it. 2 

As the bishops and abbots rose in the social scale, 
the rest of the priesthood seemed to fall ; and it is a 
singular proof of pride and love of power in the 
former, and of degradation in the latter, that many 
bishops preferred to consecrate persons of servile con- 
dition for the sacred office, that they might hear no 
complaints of unworthy treatment, and meet with no 
resistance in the exercise of an arbitrary rule. 3 

1 For rebellions of this sort, vid. Greg. Tur. vi. 11. 36., x. 15. 

2 Concil. AureL iii. c. 21. (Sirmond. i. 254.) : " Si quis clericoruni 
tit nuper multis locis diabolo instigante actum fuisse perpatuit rebelli 
auctoritate se in unum conjuratione intercedente collegerint," &c. 
The rights of the clergy against the bishop were few enough. One 
by which the rebellious clergy of -ZEtherius, Bishop of Lisieux, jus- 
tified their opposition is singular. Concil. Turon. ii. c. xiii. gave 
them the right of driving strange women from the household of a 
bishop who had no episcopa Ucentiam extraneas mulieres de fre- 
quentia habitationis ejicere." Conf. Greg. Tur. v. 51. 

3 The abbots of those monasteries which were independent 
of the bishop, acquired the same power over the monks of their 

478 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

There was then everything in the position of the 
bishop to excite desire and gratify ambition. Equal 
in wealth and station to the richest seigniors and most 
favoured courtiers, and in his priestly character supe- 
rior to the king himself, he was at the same time the 
companion of the rich and great, and the guardian 
and friend of the poor and lowly. In every contest 
with the secular power, the popular feeling, which ex- 
tended even to the hearts of his opponents, was in his 
favour. Nor could such collisions be avoided. The 
privileges granted to the Church, in the earlier days of 
its comparative poverty, proved extremely embarrass- 
ing to the State, when the clergy became the greatest 
proprietors of land in the kingdom. A large portion 
of every gau (or canton) belonged to the Church ; 
and being exempted from the usual burdens, and 
possessing a jurisdiction of its own, it was, as it were, 
withdrawn from the cognizance of the civil power. 

house, as the bishops over their inferior clergy, and rose to 
wealth by nearly the same means. Their tyranny, when they 
were inclined to exercise it, was even worse than that of the 
bishops, because they were enabled to watch all the proceedings 
of the inmates of their house. We meet with the most extraor- 
dinary instances of cruelty on the part of the abbots, and of turbu- 
lent opposition on that of the monks. The second Abbot of Aindre, 
Adalfred, who succeeded Ermeland, who became a hermit, starved 
his monks, that he might save money to build with, and had them 
most cruelly flogged. (Roth, p. 264.) Ratgar, Bishop of Fulda, was 
deprived of his see, in the time of Charlemagne, on the petition 
of his clergy, who say, in their Melius supplex, that Ratgar starved 
old weak monks, forbade them to use a stick in walking, and 
that he compelled or enticed many to become monks for their 
money. Mabillon, Acta Sanctor. iv. i. 261. 


Nor was it easy or safe to infringe upon the immuni- 
ties of the Church, which — besides being guaranteed 
by the law 1 , and defended with the greatest pertinacity 
by the clergy themselves — were supposed to be under 
the especial protection of some patron saint, the right- 
ful owner of the land. 

The conflicting claims of the civil and ecclesiastical 
powers threw the count and the bishop, the represen- 
tatives of either, into an almost constant attitude of 
rivalry and contest. The advantage was here again 
almost invariably on the side of the bishop, who, with 
equal wealth, had means, as a priest and a ruler of 
priests, of acting upon the popular mind, which were 
entirely wanting to his opponent. 

We cannot wonder, under these circumstances, 
that the office of bishop was filled by persons utterly 
unfit in character and habits to minister to the re- 
ligious wants of the community. As early as the 
seventh century, in fact, the Franco- Gallican Church, 
if we are to judge of it from its highest dignitaries, 
would seem to have almost entirely lost the character 
of a religious institution ; and to have existed chiefly 
to enable a few great spiritual lords to live in the 
greatest splendour and to engage, with vast influence 
and almost boundless means, in the political feuds by 
which the country was distracted. 

Many circumstances combined at that period to 
bring about this lamentable perversion. At a time 

1 Capit Interrogationis de iis quae Carolus M. pro cominuni 
omnium utilitate intorroganda constituit. Aquisgrani, 81 1. (Mo- 
num. Germ. (Hist.) iii. p. 106.)- 

480 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XL 

when its rapidly increasing wealth, and the rising 
ambition of the prelates, called for the soundest ad- 
ministration, the internal discipline of the Church had 
become lax ; and the metropolitan constitution, which 
might have done something towards keeping the 
bishops in check, had almost entirely disappeared. 
Nor did the safeguard of a popular election any 
longer exist. The bishops had been originally 
chosen, a clero et populo, and in the earlier ages of 
the Church, while their office retained its merely 
spiritual value and dignity, the civil authority was 
not much tempted to interfere. But the predominant 
power of the Frankish kings, and the mighty in- 
fluence they acquired after the conversion of Clovis, 
enabled them to usurp, from the very first, the right 
of nomination to the vacant sees. 1 The clergy, in- 
deed, struggled manfully at times for the recovery 
of their natural rights ; but in the main the jwceceptio 
of the king could dispense with the consensus of the 
clergy and the people, and create a bishop out of the 
merest layman and the greatest profligate. 2 

We have a letter of St. Remigius (Remi), the con- 
verter of Clovis, in which he replies to a violent 
protest of the bishops against the nomination of one 
Claudius, an unworthy person, as presbyter ; and in 
which he excuses himself, not by defending the man's 
character, but by saying that Clovis, " who was not 
only the preacher but the defender of the Catholic 

1 Greg. Tur. iv. 26. Conf. Capitula Imp. Caroli que in Lege 
Sal. mittenda sunt, c. ii. (Merkel, Lex. Sal. p. 47.). 

2 Greg. Tur. iv. 18., v. 37. 


faith, the ruler of kingdoms, the guardian of his 
country, the victor of nations, had enjoined it." x 

The clergy of Tours expressly declare to Cato, the 
presbyter, to whom they came to offer the bishopric 
on the death of Guntar, " Non nostra te voluntate 
expetivimuS) sed regis prceceptione" 2 

Almost the only person, therefore, from whom the 
higher clergy had anything to hope or fear was the 
king ; who regarded the great ecclesiastical offices as 
so much patronage, or even property, which he might 

bestow upon his favourites, or sell to the highest 
bidder. 3 

Even the assemblies of the clergy were dependent 
upon the king, both for permission to meet, and for 
the confirmation of their decrees. 4 

1 Epist. S. Remigii ad Heraclium et alios (Bouquet, iv. p. 52.) : 
" Scribitis Canonicuni non fuisse quod (rex) jussit. Suramo funga- 
mini Sacerdotio. Regionum Praesul, custos patriae, gentium 
triumphator injunxit." 

2 Vid. Greg. Tur. iv. 11. In the same chapter we have an 
indication that bishops were deposed by the king, without any 
cause but the desire of bestowing their sees elsewhere. 

3 Greg. Tur. iv. 35., v. 47. 

4 See a letter from a Synod, in a.d. 511, to Clovis (Lcebell, 
324.): " Ita ut si ea quae nos statuimus etiam vestro recta esse 
judicio comprobantur, tanti consensus Regis ac Domini majori 
auctoritate servandam tantorum firmet sententiam Sacerdotum." 
We have an account in Greg. iv. 26. of something like a collision on 
this point between the clergy and the king. A Synod at Saintes 
ii#A.D. 562, deposed a bishop, who had been appointed, by Clo- 
taire without the consensus of the metropolitan bishops. Clotuire 
was already dead, but his son Charibert not only reversed their 
decree of deposition, but severely punished all those who took any 
part in the opposition to the royal will. Concil. Aurel. v. can. 10. 
(Sirmond. i. p. 280.) ; vid. Lcebeli's Gregor von Tours, p. 341. 

I I 

482 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XL 

The corrupting effect of this, the sole control, to 
which the bishops were subject, was increased in its 
hurtful operation by the character of the majority of 
the Merovingian kings. Those who were set in high 
places, and should have been an example to the 
flock of Christ, were the courtiers and companions 
of the crafty and bloody Clovis, and the long line of 
his wicked or imbecile successors, who form the most 
detestable dynasty that ever filled a Western throne. 
Clovis, Chilperic, Clotaire, and Fredegunda, were the 
virtual heads of the Frankish Church ; their favour 
was the only path to ecclesiastical distinction ; and 
their tribunal was the only one to which the bishops 
were amenable. That this was the real state of the 
case, is proved by numberless passages in Gregory of 
Tours, and especially by the language which that 
prelate and historian himself makes use of to Chil- 
peric. " If any of us, king/' he says, " should 
venture to transgress the bounds of justice, he can 
be corrected by thee ; but if thou shouldest trans- 
gress, who will call thee to account ? For we speak 
to thee, and if thou choosest thou hearest ; but if 
thou art unwilling, who shall condemn thee, except 
Him who has declared that He is justice itself?" l 

The sad results of the many evil influences to 
which we have referred, and many more which we 
are compelled to pass over, are clearly seen in every 
page of this period. The corruption displays itself 
more prominently in the bishops themselves, but no 
doubt their evil example loosened the bands of mo- 

1 Greg. Tur. v. 19. 


rality and discipline throughout the whole fabric of 
the Church. Gregory is evidently restrained on 
many occasions from setting forth all the enormities 
committed by his episcopal brethren, " lest he should 
seem to be a detractor fratrum ; " yet his history con- 
tains enough to fill us with disgust and sorrow at the 
corruptions into which the foremost ministers of reli- 
gion had fallen. 1 Simony of the most unscrupulous 
and open kind was almost universal. 2 

In a.d. 591, Eusebius, " a Syrian merchant," pur- 
chased the bishopric of Paris ; and, as soon as he was 
installed, discharged all those who held offices under 
his predecessor, and supplied their place exclusively 
with Syrians. 3 King Guntram, who seems to have 
had scruples on the subject, and condemned simony 
in the strongest terms, not only received bribes from 
clerical candidates for the episcopal office, but ap- 
pointed Desiclerius, a layman, from the same corrupt 
motives. And this he did, " though he had promised 
with an oath never to ordain a bishop from the laity. 

1 Greg. Tur. v. 4. 

2 « 

" Already (a. d. 527) at that time,'' we read, in the Vita S. 
Galli, " that evil germ had begun to bear fruit, viz., that the priestly 
office was sold by the kings,' 7 &c. Bouquet, iii. p. 410. : " Averni 
vero Clerici cum consensu insipientiuin facto, et multis muneribus 
ad Regent venerunt. Jam tunc germen illud iniquum coeperat 
frutificare, ut sacerdotium venderetur a regibus aut compara- 
retur a clericis . . . . " The king ordered a banquet to 
be given in honour of Gallus's elevation to the episcopal chair, 
at the public expense. " Nam referre erat solitus (Gallus) 
non amplius donasse se pro episcopatu quam unum triantem coquo 
qui servivit ad prandium.'' Conf. Greg. Tur. iii. 2., viii. 20. 39. 

3 Greg. Tur. x. 26. 

ii 2 

484 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

But to what," adds the historian, " will not the aari 
sacra fames compel the human heart ?" x 

The conduct of those who were thus admitted 
into the episcopal sees, was generally in accordance 
with the auspices under which they entered upon 
their office. The prevalence among them of crimes, 
not only disgraceful to their sacred character, but 
to humanity itself, may be proved from the writ- 
ings of one of themselves, who confessedly deals 
tenderly with his brethren. 

Cautinus who, about the year a.d. 553, was made 
Bishop of Tours, is described as " having acted in 
such a manner as to be execrated by all men ; ex- 
cessively addicted to ivine, and generally so drenched 
in liquor, that he could scarcely be carried from a 
banquet by four men. For which reason he became 
epileptic, as was often clearly made manifest to the 
people. He was so inclined to avarice, that he re- 
garded it as destruction to himself, if he could not 
take away something from the hands of those whose 
possessions bordered on his own. The more powerful 
he deprived of their property by quarrels and abuse ; 
the inferior classes he plundered with open violence." 2 
Nor were these the most serious of his offences. 
He also buried a presbyter alive in the crypt of his 
church for refusing to surrender something which 
the bishop had demanded of him. 

Eonius, in the year a.d. 580, fell down in a drunken 

1 In Acts of Simony by Guntram. Greg. Tur. vi. 7. 39., 
viii. 22. 

2 Greg. Tur. iv. 12. 


fit when performing mass at the altar in Paris ; and 
" was generally so disgustingly (deformiter) drunk, 
that he could not walk." l The bishops Palladius and 
Bertchramnus having quarrelled at the table of King 
Guntram, accused each other of " adultery and per- 
jury;" at which, says Gregory, " many laughed, but 
some who were possessed of greater wisdom grieved." 2 
The deeds of Pappolus, Bishop of Langres, were of 
such a character that the historian thinks it better to 
pass over them without notice. 3 

Badegisil, Bishop of Mans in a.d. 586, was a mon- 
ster in human form, and had a wife even worse than 
himself. He was " very cruel to the people, and was 
continually robbing different persons of their pro- 
perty. His wife increased the savage ferocity of his 
heart, and urged him on by the stimulants of her most 
wicked counsels. Not a day, not a moment, passed, 
in which he did not wallow in the spoils of his fellow- 
citizens, or engage in various altercations. He daily 
argued causes with the judge, carried on secular war- 
fare, and even went so far as to beat men with his 
own hand, saying, ' What ! because I am a priest, 
shall I not avenge my wrongs? ' " The historian pro- 

1 Greg. Tur. v. 41. 2 Ibid. viii. 7. 

3 The Abbot Dagulfus (a. d. 583) frequently committed theft and 
homicide, et " in adulteriis nimiurn dissolutus erat." He was at 
last killed, while in a drunken fit, by an injured husband. " Ideo- 
que,'' adds Gregory, " documentum sit ha3C causa clericis, ne 
contra Canonurn statuta extranearum mulierum consortio potian- 
tur : cum haec et ipsa lex canonica et omnes Scriptural Sanctoe 
prohibeant, praster has feminas de quibus crimen non potest 
sestimari." — Greg, Ttir. viii. 19. 

i i 3 

486 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

ceeds to relate the deeds of this bishop's wife, who 
was possessed of " ineffable malice ;" and after relating 
things too horrible to be repeated here, he adds, " and 
many other wicked deeds she committed, about which 
I have thought it better to be silent ! " x 

We are confirmed in our opinion of the prevalence 
of corrupt morals among the clergy of this period, by 
the great lenity with which their crimes are treated 
by others of their own order. 2 

Sagittarius and Salonius, bishops of Gap and Em- 
brun in Dauphine, lived in perpetual bloodshed and 
lasciviousness, and though twice deposed for their 
crimes, they were twice restored again to their epis- 
copal chairs, and king Gantram believed that his son's 
death teas the consequence of his having put these wretches 
in prison! In the year A. d. 579, they were again ac- 
cused before a synod assembled at Ghalons-sur-Saone 
under the auspices of King Guntram. " They were 
accused," says Gregory, " not only of adultery, but 
of murder. 3 

1 Greg. Tur. viii. 39. 

2 Gregory gives us an account of a certain priest (of Mans), 
who was " luxuriosus nimis, amatorque mulierum et gulos ac 
fornicationis, omnique immunditiae valde deditus." This man 
took about with him a woman of good family in male attire, and 
having been discovered by her relation*, was given into custody, 
while the unfortunate woman was burned. The priest himself was 
put up for sale,, with the understanding that if no offer was made 
for him he should be put to death. Bishop JEtherius of Lisieux 
redeemed ( ff castigatum verbis lenibus") him by paying twenty 
gold pieces, and afterwards intrusted him ivith the instruction of 
the boys of his diocese. Greg. vi. 36. 

3 Greg. Tur. v. 21. 


The council of bishops decided that these offences 
might be atoned for by penitence (a sentence equiva- 
lent to an acquittal) ; but, unluckily for the culprits, 
they were also charged with treason to king and 
country, and for this offence were stripped of their 
episcopal robes. 

While the episcopal order was in this deplorable 
state, the discipline and dignity of the Church, as we 
might naturally suppose, were almost entirely lost. So 
many of the bishops and abbots lived mere laymen, 
that their sacred character was often forgotten by 
others as well as themselves ; and notwithstanding 
the laws by which their separate jurisdiction was de- 
fended 1 they were often called to a severe account by 
the civil power, and even subjected to capital punish- 
ment. It was in fact the crimes of the bishops 
and their consequent loss of influence among the 
people, which emboldened the kings to treat them in 
such an arbitrary manner as they frequently did. 
Clotaire I. drove Bishop Nicetius from his diocese, 
for daring to rebuke and excommunicate him for 
his crimes. And so far were the bishops from ven- 
turing to resist this attack upon one of the noblest 
of their order, that Nicetius was deserted by all his 

1 The council held by Guntram at Macon, in a.d. 581, laid the 
ban on all judges who should punish the clergy absque causa 
crirninalis. Cone. Matisc. i. can. 7. (Sirmond. i. p. 371.) Ibid. can. 
43. : " Quicunque Judex, aut secularis Presbytero, aut Diacono, 
ut cuilibet de Clero, aut de junioribus absque voluntate Episcopi 
aut Archidiaconi, vel Archipresbyteri, injuriam inferre praesump- 
serit anno ab omnium Christianorum consortio habeatur extraneus." 

i i 4 

488 THE ERANKS. [Chap. XI. 

brethren of the priesthood with the exception of one 
deacon. 1 

Theodoras, afterwards bishop of Tours, was thrown 
into prison by Guntram in a.d. 582, though no evi- 
dence of guilt was brought against him, and Epi- 
phanius, another bishop who was incarcerated on 
the same occasion, died in confinement post multa 
supplicia. 2 

Into so deplorable a state had the Frankish 
Church fallen, towards the end of the seventh cen- 
tury, that instead of being able to spread the light 
of Christianity over surrounding nations, she seemed 
more likely to be herself overwhelmed by the re- 
turning tide of heathenism. The missionary spirit 
had apparently died out of the Franco-Gallic clergy, 
who, engaged as they were, in the unscrupulous 
acquisition, and too often in the brutal enjoyment 
of wealth, cared little that the people of many a 
diocese were still (locking to their heathen temples, 
and their sacred groves. The power of self-rege- 
neration seemed completely wanting to the Frankish 
Church, and had there not existed in the old British 
and Irish Churches a purer spirit and a quicker 
zeal for the conversion of the nations, many parts 
of Germany must have remained for a considerable 
period in a state of heathen darkness. 

The first efforts to restore some degree of order 

1 Vita S. Nicetii (Bouquet, iii. p. 419.) : " Ab Episcopis reliquis, 
qui adulatores Regis effect! fuerant atque a suis omnibus dere- 
lictus. . ." (a.d. 582.) Greg. Tur. vi. 24 

- Greg. Tur. vi. 24. 


and morality to the Gallic Church were made by 
St. Columban, St. Gall, and St. Killian, all of whom 
belonged to the British Church, the records of 
which were carefully destroyed by the Romish hier- 
archy. Their labours, however, appear to have had 
no perceptible results. The more successful and 
more celebrated Winfried, who well deserved the 
name of the Apostle of Germany, was of the same 
nation as his forerunners, but differed from them in 
being a zealous adherent of the Romish ritual. Win- 
fried, better known under the name of Boniface, was 
of Anglo-Saxon origin, and was born at Kyrton, in 
Devonshire, about a.d. 684. Very early in life he 
became a monk, and was renowned in his own coun- 
try for that purity of manners and earnest zeal for 
the interests of religion, of which neither the severe 
trials, nor even the brilliant successes of his suc- 
ceeding life could ever deprive him. The missionary 
spirit, by which he was more strongly possessed than 
almost any man of whom we read in history, im- 
pelled him to quit the seclusion of the cloister, and 
to undertake the conversion of Friesland, to which 
country he went in a.d. 716. The time of his ap- 
pearance there was peculiarly unfortunate, as being 
immediately after the temporary expulsion of the 
Franks by Ratbod ; and he was obliged to return to 
England without accomplishing his purpose. It is 
worthy of notice that these first unavailing efforts 
to convert the heathen were made without any 
previous application for the sanction of the Pope. 
It was therefore in all probability after his return 

490 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

from Friesland that Winfried formed those decided 
opinions respecting the outward unity of the Church, 
and the divine, absolute, and universal authority of 
the successors of St. Peter, for which he subsequently 
became so remarkable. 

In a.d. 718, having obtained letters of recom- 
mendation from Daniel, Bishop of Winchester, to the 
Pope, he made his first journey to Rome. A man 
who united so much undoubted piety with so much 
devotedness to the papal chair, could not but meet 
with the best reception. He received a commission 
from Gregory II. to covert the heathen, and to bring 
all such as were already Christians into the Romish 
communion. The first success he met with was 
among the Hessians at Amoneburg in a.d. 722. 
He had previously preached without effect among 
the Thuringians, who, though they were nominally 
Christians, had corrupted the doctrines and practice 
of Christianity with a large admixture of Paganism. 

On his second visit to Rome, in a. d. 723, Winfried 
was consecrated bishop by Gregory II. , who gave 
him the name of Boniface, by which he is most 
familiarly known in history. It was on this occasion 
that the Pope, foreseeing, with that skill in the choice 
and use of instruments which is characteristic of the 
papacy, how greatly such a man might serve the 
interests which were nearest to the papal heart, en- 
deavoured to bind the future apostle of Germany still 
more firmly to St. Peter's chair. 

Boniface was induced to swear by the body of 
St. Peter, that he would never separate himself from 


the Church of Rome, and would resist, to the utmost 
of his power, all those who swerved from the In- 
stitutions of the Father of the Church. 1 " I, Boni- 
face," runs the oath, " bishop, by the grace of God, 
promise to thee, blessed St. Peter, chief of the 
Apostles, and to thy blessed representative, Pope 
Gregory, and to his successors, in the name of the 
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the undivided Trinity, 
and by this thy most sacred body, .... never to do 
anything in any way against the unity of the general 
and universal Church, .... and to observe fidelity, 
and purity, and fellowship in the interests of thy 
Church, and towards thee, to whom the Lord God 
hath given the power of binding and of loosing, and 
to thy aforesaid representative (vicar) and to his 
successors. And if I shall see any priests altering 
anything contrary to the institutions of the Holy 
Fathers, I will hold no communion or fellowship 
with them, but will rather, if possible, prevent them ; 
but if not, I will faithfully and immediately report 
such persons to my apostolical lord." He further 
invokes upon himself the fate of Ananias and 
Sapphira should he prove unfaithful to his vows. 

The importance of the bent thus given to the 
thoughts and actions of Boniface can hardly be over- 
rated. The great object of the papal policy at this 
period was to find a counterpoise to the power of the 

1 Indiculus Sacramenti (ap. Sirmond. i. p. 512.). Boniface 
humbly styles himself exiguus Episcopus. It is worthy of notice, 
in passing, that even this instrument is dated by the year of the 
Greek Emperor Leo's reign. 

492 THE FRANKS. [Chat. XI. 

Langobards, by whom the Romish Church was hard 
pressed in Italy ; and with this view, the alliance 
of the Franks, and more particularly of the Carlo- 
vingian maj'ors and sovereigns, was sought with the 
greatest eagerness by several successive popes. These 
important objects Boniface was selected to serve, and 
it was mainly by his means, by his unswerving fidelity 
to Rome, and the influence he gained over Carl Mar- 
tel and King Pepin, that the strict alliance between 
the Carlovingian dynasty and the papal chair was 
brought to pass. The results of this alliance may be 
found in every page of subsequent European history, 
even down to the present day : it laid the foundation 
of Church and State in Europe ; it placed Charlemagne 
on the imperial throne, and enabled the Popes to 
establish in reality, that universal power which had 
already been the subject of their waking dreams. 

The missionary efforts of Boniface had not hitherto 
been attended with all the success which they deserved : 
and the reason is evident ; — his impatient zeal, unsup- 
ported by the civil authority, had aroused an angry 
opposition, which he had not the material power to 
overcome. He had not learned from St. Augustine 
and others the policy of a temporising adaptation ; 
when he saw a heathen temple, or a sacred oak, he was 
not satisfied till he had utterly destroyed them. The 
conquests of the Franks, however, supplied him with 
the external means of success which had hitherto been 
wanting. After his consecration as bishop, the Pope 
gave him letters of recommendation to Carl Martel, 
in whose interest also it lay that discipline and subor- 


dination should take the place of the license and 
anarchy which had hitherto disgraced the Church. 1 
Carl Martel not only received him with the greatest 
reverence, but zealously seconded his efforts, and gave 
him a "general epistle" to all bishops, dukes, counts, 
and in short to all office-bearers throughout the 
empire, to give countenance and aid to Boniface, in 
the prosecution of his purposes. 2 The advantage, and 
indeed necessity, of the assistance thus afforded is fre- 
quently acknowledged by Boniface himself, who, where 
the power of reason proved insufficient, was not slow 
in using the weighty arguments with which he had 
been furnished by his zealous patron. 

With the countenance and protection of the Pope 
and Carl Martel, he proceeded to complete the con- 
version of the Hessians, and subsequently went a 
second time on a mission to the Thuringians, on whom 
he had hitherto produced little or no impression. This 
nation, like the Saxons in the time of Charlemagne, 
was prejudiced against Christianity and its priests, in 
whom they only saw the agents of the Frankish 
domination. Among them, therefore, Boniface ap- 
peared armed with all the terrors of the civil power. 
He everywhere cut down their sacred groves, hoping by 

1 Greg. P., Epist. ad Carol. Ducem (Sirmond. i. p. 512.). 

2 Carol. Maj. Dom. Epist. Generalis : " Dominis Sanctis ct Apo- 
stolicis in Christo patribus," Episcopis, Ducibus, Comitibus, Vi- 
cariis, Domesticis, sen omnibus agentibus, Junioribus nostris seu 
Missis decurrentibus, et amicis nostris. Cognoscatis qnaliter Apo- 
stolicus vir .... Bonifacius Ep. ad nos venit et nobis suggessit, 
quod sub nostro mundeburdo recipere debereraus." 

494 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

this means to prove to the people, the nullity of those 
heathen gods who neglected to avenge an insult of- 
fered to their deity; and when resistance was made by 
the unconverted, they were put down by force of arms. 
After the death of Gregory II., in a.d. 731, Boni- 
face reported the results of his labours to his suc- 
cessor Gregory III. The new Pope expressed his 
sense of the great services rendered to Christendom, 
by bestowing upon Boniface the pallium of arch- 
bishop, and by naming him vicar apostolic, with 
power to settle the ecclesiastical affairs of the Frankish 
empire. 1 It is evident throughout the history of this 
remarkable man, that while the impulses of his own 
heart would have led him into the yet untrodden 
wilderness of heathenism, his patrons at Rome were 
anxious to employ him in the important task of re- 
organising on purely Romish principles the hitherto 
too independent Frankish Church. After his return, 
therefore, from his third journey to Rome, we find 
him exclusively engaged in settling the external affairs 
of the Church, in which the commission of the Pope, 
and the friendship of Carl Martel, and subsequently 
of Pepin and Carloman, gave him almost unlimited 
authority. In a.d. 739, he divided Bavaria into the 
four dioceses of Salzburg, Freisingen, Ratisbon, and 
Passau. In Austrasia and among the newly converted 
Hessians and Thuringians, he established bishoprics 
at AYiirtzburg, Eichstadt, Buraburg and Erfurt. He 
also founded several monasteries, one of which, at 

1 Greg. III. P., Ep. i. ad Bonifac. (Sirmoud. i. p. 521.). 


Fluda, a.d. 744, obtained a very high reputation for 
the learning and piety of its inmates. 1 

The success of Boniface in his endeavours to pro- 
mote the unity of the Catholic Church was so rapid 
and complete, that he was able, as early as a.d. 743, 
to summon the first German Council, which was held 
at some place unknown, on the right bank of the 
Rhine. At this synod, the proceedings of which 
have come down to us, the influence of Boniface was 
completely predominant ; and the newly organised 
German Church acknowledged the most complete 
subjection to the Holy See. 

"We have decreed," say the assembled bishops, "in 
our synodal assembly, and declared, that we wish to 
adhere to the Catholic faith and unity, and to sub- 
jection to the Roman Church until the end of our 
lives ; that we wish to submit ourselves to St. Peter 
and his representative 2 ; that a synod shall be held 
every year ; that metropolitans shall fetch their 
pallia from Rome ; that we desire in all things to 
follow the precepts of St. Peter, according to the 
canons, that we may be numbered among his sheep." 3 

It was also enacted that bishops should abstain 
from war and the chase, and the use of secular gar- 
ments, and take measures for the extirpation of 
idolatry in their several provinces. The monasteries 

1 Greg. III. P., Ep. vii. ad Bonifac. Conf. Ep. Bonif. ad Zachar. 
P. (Sirraond. i. pp. 727. 729.). 

2 Bonif. Episc. ad Cudberthum (ed. Wtirdfwein, p. 73.). 

3 This took place not without some scruples. Zachar. P., Ep. v. 
ad Bonif. (Sirmond. i. p. 547.). 

496 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XL 

and nunneries, which had fallen, like the rest of the 
Church, into a state of dissolution, were brought 
under the stricter rule of St. Benedict, and subjected 
to regular surveillance. 1 

Had wealth and honours been his object, Boniface 
might now have rested in the full enjoyment of them. 
He had formed the strictest and most friendly al- 
liance with Carloman and Pepin ; he was honoured 
and valued at Rome as the greatest and most suc- 
cessful champion of St. Peter's claims, and he was 
reverenced by his countrymen at home as little less 
than an apostle. In a.d. 744 he was appointed to 
the see of Cologne, as his archiepiscopal residence, 
and, in the following year, to that of Mayence, with 
a general superintendence and authority over the 
whole Frankish Church. He had also the satisfac- 
tion of seeing his patron and friend, Pepin, assume 
the title of king ; and though we are not expressty 
informed what part he took in the famous embassy 
from Pepin to the Pope, respecting the deposition of 
the Merovingians, yet we can scarcely doubt that it 
was sent at his suggestion. What, in fact, could be 
more in accordance with his principles, more gratify- 
ing to him, as a si<m of the brilliant success of his 
efforts to unite and strengthen the Romish Church, 

1 Ep. Zacbar. ad Bonif. (Simond. i. pp. 558. 570.). T\ r e may 
judge of the state of the Church at this period from the corre- 
spondence between Boniface and the Popes. Vid. Zach. P. ad 
Bonif. (Sirmond. i. p. 533.): "Si Episcopi, &c v in adulterio 
vel fornicatione inventi fuerint, vel si plures uxores habuerint, 
aut si sanguinem Christianorum, sive Paganorum efFuderint. . ." 
Conf. Zachar. P., Epist. xi. ad Bonif. (Sirmond. i. p. 572.). 


than that the most powerful prince in Europe should 
ask the sanction of the Bishop of Rome, before he 
ventured to ascend a throne, the power of which he 
had long possessed ? 

But neither the favour and friendship of his sove- 
reign, on whose head he had helped to place a diadem, 
nor the still more precious approbation of his spiritual 
master, the foundation of whose power he had laid 
deep and strong in the very centre of Europe, could 
satisfy the earnest soul of Boniface. In his eyes even 
kings and popes were but instruments for the pro- 
motion of the glory of God. Neither age, nor the 
honours and pleasures of the world, which were now 
within his reach, could relax or cool the fervent zeal 
which burnt within his breast. The quiet and dig- 
nified routine of a prelate's duties were far less suited 
to his nature than the struggles and dangers of the 
missionary's life. When he had passed the age of 
seventy, he resigned his well-earned dignities to those 
smaller souls who could find an end in them, and went 
forth again to bring the light of the Gospel to the 
barbarous Frisians, who were still sitting in the dark- 
ness of heathenism. His death was worthy of his 
life ; and no doubt such as he himself would have 
most desired. His efforts among the Frisians were 
crowned with great success ; but his zeal in de- 
stroying their temples excited a bitter opposition 
among those who still clung to the superstitions of 
their fathers. He had appointed the fifth of July, 
A.r>. 755, as the day on which he would meet the 
newly baptized converts at a place in the neigh- 

K K 

498 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XL 

bourhood of Utrecht, and encourage them by his 
exhortations to continue in the faith. Instead of 
these, however, there appeared an armed and furious 
crowd of heathens, who fell upon Boniface and his 
companions in the huts which they had thrown up 
for their temporary residence. Boniface, on this oc- 
casion, forbade his followers to resist, and marching 
forth in peaceful array at the head of his brother 
missionaries, he found with them the martyr's death, 
which had long been the object of his wishes. Thus 
died St. Boniface, and it were well if every saint in 
the Calendar could show as good a title to that lofty 
appellation. 1 

Yet he was far from being free from the errors of 
the age in which he lived, and the usual weaknesses 
of his own peculiar temperament. Very earnest and 
zealous men are for the most part to a certain degree 
one-sided, and very honest men are apt to be rough 
in the modus operandi, 

1 If anything could make us unjust to the memory of Boniface, 
it would be the absurd exaggeration of his merits in which some 
zealots of the present day indulge. Bishop Ketteler of Mayence, 
in his pastoral letter (1855), declares, that without his influence 
the Carlovingians would never have entertained the idea of esta- 
blishing a Christian State ; nay, that without these, there would 
probably have never been a German people at all, perhaps not 
even a common German language. " When, therefore," he con- 
tinues, " this spiritual foundation was subsequently destroyed, and 
the spiritual bands by which St. Boniface had united the Ger- 
man nations were torn asunder, it was all over with the unity 
and the greatness of the German people. As the Jews lost their 
mission upon earth when they crucified the Messiah, so the Ger- 
man people gave up its lofty calling in the kingdom of God, 
when it rent the uniformity of faith which Boniface established." 


We have seen that he went forth among the hea- 
thens with the spirit of the ancient Jews, to destroy 
the evil thing from the face of the earth. He was 
scarcely more gentle in his dealings with those whom 
he considered heretics, and he denounces in the 
strongest terms all his brother priests who deviated 
one jot or tittle from what he held up as the canons 
of the fathers. In a letter to Pope Zachary, he prays 
for his aid against two " wicked and blasphemous 
heretics, who differed in the nature of their error, 
but were equal in the weight of their sins." He calls 
upon the Pope to use his apostolical authority "to 
cast these two heretics into prison, and to prevent 
any one from speaking to them, or holding any com- 
munion with them." x He applies to married priests 
the epithet fornicatores. He is extremely angry 
with an Irish priest named Virgilius, who lived in 
Bavaria, for maintaining that the earth was round, 
and that the antipodes were inhabited, which seemed 
to him and Pope Zachary a highly heretical and dan- 
gerous doctrine ; since the ancient fathers, Lactantius, 
Hieronymus, and Augustine, had all held that the 
earth was a level plain. In answer to Boniface's 
complaints, Zachary directs him to call a council, and 
expel from the priesthood and the Church the man 
who, "against God and his own soul," professed that 
" perverse and wicked doctrine " that there was " an- 
other world, and other men beneath the earth." 2 

1 Bonifac. Ep. ad Zachar. P. (Sirmond. i. p. 552.). Conf. Cone. 
Roman. (Ibid. i. p. 551.). 

2 Ep. Bonifac. 140.(ed. Wurdtwein) : " De perversa autem et 

k k 2 

500 THE FRANKS. [Chap. XI. 

His views respecting the unity of the Church led 
him to give an excessive and dangerous importance 
to the minutest external observances. In him, no 
doubt, this narrow ritualism proceeded from the 
desire " whether he eat or drank, or whatever he did, 
to do all things to the glory of God ; " but his example 
fostered in others the spirit of the Pharisee. In all 
doubtful matters he applied to the Pope for his judg- 
ment, which he considered final, and binding upon 
every Christian. Zachary replied with the utmost ■ 
readiness to all his inquiries, and warns him against 
eating crows or storks, and still more strongly against 
allowing beavers, hares, and wild horses to be used as 
the food of Christians. He then proceeds to answer 
Boniface's question as to the proper time of eating 
ham, respecting which, he says, no directions had been 
given by the fathers ; but he advises, on his own au- 
thority, that it should not be eaten until it had been 
cooked, or smoked, and, that if it must be eaten raw, 
it should be eaten after the festival of Easter. 1 

The practice common among the Germans of eating 
horseflesh, more particularly excited the indignation 
of Boniface and Pope Gregory III. " You add," says 
the latter, in an epistle to Boniface, " that some eat 
wild horses, and very many tame ones. By no means, 

iniqua doctrina quarn contra Deum et aniinam suam locutus est 
clarificatum fuerit ; ita eum confiteri quod alius mundus et alii 
homines sub terra sunt, hunc accito concilio, ab eeclesia pelle, 
sacerdotii privatum." 

1 Zachar. P., Ep. ad Bonif. (Wurdtwein, p. 87.) : " Et hoc 
inquisiti, post quantum temporis debet lardum comedi. Nobis a 
patribus institulum pro hoc non est." 


holy father, allow this to be done in future, but, as 
far as you can, with the aid of Christ, restrain the 
people and bring them to a becoming repentance ; for 
it is an unclean and execrable thing." l 

The vigour of Boniface, and the zealous co-opera- 
tion of his Anglo-Saxon followers, to many of whom 
he gave bishoprics in Germany, arrested the fall of 
the Franco-Gallic Church. The immediate effect of 
his mission was no doubt to make the clergy less 
troublesome to the State than they had previously 
been, by bringing the turbulent ecclesiastical seigniors 
into subordination to a spiritual head. Bat the ulti- 
mate tendency of his labours in the cause of Catholic 
unity and Roman supremacy was to make the Church 
more powerful, and less dependent on the civil au- 
thority than before, and to enable the bishops of 
Rome to advance, with a greater prospect of having 
them allowed their haughty claims to universal do- 

1 Gieseler, ii. 22. 

k k 3 



Abderrahman, 257. 
Adelung, 12. 32. 4 3 
jEga, 203. 222. 
yEgidius, 66. 68. 146. 150. 
Aetius, 65. 
Agathias, 122. 
Agilbert, (Bp.) 226. 
Agilulf, 172. 
Alani, 59. 
Alaric, 59. 
Alci (the), 19. 
Alemanni, 41. 
Allfadir, 22. 
Alodis, de, 443. 
Alrunae, 26. 
Amalaberg, 10S. 
Amalafrida, 1 1 5. 
Amalaric, 113. 
Amalasuintha, 114, 115. 
Ambiza, 256. 
Amboise, 84. 
Amiens, 56. 
Ambneburg, 490. 
Anastasius, 88. 
Andernach, 56. 
Andovera, 134. 
Ansegisus, 225. 
Ansibarii, 43. 
Antrustiones, 356. 
Arbogastes, 58. 
Ardennes, 56. 73. 
Argentaria, 57. 
Ariwald (K.), 207. 
Arminius 43. 446. 
Armorial bearings, 28. 
Armorica, 71. 
Arnulph (Bp.), 186. 
Arras, 56. 64. 
Arverni, 1 12. 
Ascaricus, 51. 

Asceticism, 460. 
Astingians, 59. 
Athalaric, 1 15. 
Athanagildis, 131. 
Athima, 265. 
Attila, 64. 

Augustine, 451. 499. 
Aurelian, 39, 48. 
Aurinia, 27. 
Austrasia, 99. 
Autchar, 316. 
Autharis, 172. 
Auxerre, 66. 
Avitus, 106. 449. 462. 


Badegisil, 485. 

Baderic, 108. 

Badilo, 224. 

Balthildis, 223. 

Barditus, 29. 

Basina, 68. 

Batavia, 50. 58. 

Beer, 10. 

Begga, 225. 

Belgica, 63. 

Belisarius, 117. 

Beneficia, 388. 

Benevento, 268. 

Berchildis, 203. 

Bertet'ried, 144. 

Bertbar, 108, 109. 

Bertrada, 319. 

Bezieres, 266. 

Bladastes, 160. 

Boniface, 299, 452, 489— 5(»l, 

Bonn, 44. 

Boso, 150. 154. 458. 

Bourges (Count of), 334. 

Bretagne, 71. 

Briccius, 458. 





Brodulph, 201. 
Bructeri, 26. 35. 43. 
Brunhilda, 130. 158. 
Bucelinus, 120. 
Buchonian Forest, 92. 
Burgundians, 59. 70. 82. 
Burchard (Bp.), 308. 

Cadiz, 254. 

Cassar, 12, 13. 18. 27. 

Cambrai, 62. 

Camerarii, 214. 

Campus Martins, 216 

Cannstadt, 292. 

Carausius, 49. 

Carbonaria, Silva, 56. 

Carcassonne, 256. 

Carl (Martel), 240 

Carloman, 288. 294. 

Catalaunian Fields, 65. 

Catti, 1 3. 47. 

Cavellum, 330. 

Centena?, Centenarius, 428. 

Cerdagne, 257. 

Ceuta, 252. 

Chamavi, 43. 

Chararich, 73. 85. 91. 94. 

Charlemagne, 5. 464. 472. 

Chastity (German), 15. 

Chasuarii, 43. 

Cherusci, 43. 47. 446. 

Childebert, I., 98. 112 

Childebert, II., 149. 

Childebert, III., 236. 
Childebrand, 265. 
Childeric, I., 66. 377. 
Childeric, II., 224. 
Childeric, III., 288. 306. 
Chilperic I., 137. 147. 166. 
Chilperic II., 242. 247. 
Chonober, 124. 
Chramnus, 1 24. 
Church, 78. 448. 
Clodion, 62. 65. 421. 
Clotaire (Ripuarian), 92. 
Clotaire, I., 98. 110. 114. 124. 126. 
Clotaire II., 148. 173. 183-4. 
Clotaire III., 223. 

Clothildis or Clotilda, 75. 1 04. 112. 461 
Clovis I., 55. 97. 
ClovisII., 210.222. 
Clovis III., 236. 
Coblentz, 39. 
Cologne, 55. 210. 
Columban (Saint), 489. 
Columna, 106. 

114. 122. 126. 
150. 170. 174. 

Comes Palatii, 214. 

Comes Stabuli, 214. 

Comitatus, 214. 359. 364. 395. 

Compiegne, 241. 336. 

Convenas, 160. 

Conviva- Regis, 427. 

Constantine, 50. 453. 

Constantius Chlorus, 50. 

Cordova, 254. 

Corvus, 185. 

Cubicularius, 214. 

Culpa, 204. 

Cunibert, B. of Cologne, 210. 

Czechs, 204. 


Danes, 27. 

Dagobert I., 198. 211. 222. 

Dagobert II., 223. 

Dagobert III., 236. 240. 243. 

De solido et denario sponsare, 440. 

Dfcurion, 369. 465. 

Derwan (Prince of the Sorbs), 208. 

Desiderius, 330. 

Deutz, 123. 

Devoti, 396. 

Dietrich (of Berne), 1 14. 

Diocletian, 50. 

Domestici, 214. 

Domitian, 27. 

Domus, 424. 

Dordogne, 258. 

Drogo (Son of Pepin of Heristal), 232. 

Drogo (Son of Carloman), 295. 
Drusus, 44. 
Dysborch (Dispargum), 63. 


Eberulf, 151. 
Ebroin, 224. 
Eburones, 74. 
Edda (the), 21. 
Edobold, 338. 
Eichstadt, 494. 
Einhard, 230. 
Eonius, 484. 
Epiphanius (Bp. ), 488. 
Erchambertus, 230. 
Erfurt, 494. 
Eucherius, 283. 
Eudo, 246. 256. 
Eumenius, 51. 
Euric, 83. 
Eusebius, 453. 483. 
Eutharic, 115. 
Eva, 90. 



Faileuba, 164. 
Faventia, 330. 
Ferrara, 330. 
Fortunatus, 129. 
Fredegunda, 137. 175. 
Frisians, 234. 
Fulrad, 308. 329. 


Gallienus, 49. 
Gallus, 483. 
Galsuintha, 133. 176. 

Gauna, 27. 

Genobaudes, 58. 

Germania, 56. 

Germania, the (of Tacitus), 32. 423. 

Gibbon, 12. 15. 32. 

Gislemar, 227. 

Godomar, 103. 

Gomatrudis, 1 99. 

Gordian III., 39. 

Gottschalk, 273. 

Grafio (Graf.) 428. 

Gregory the Great, 454. 

Gregory, Popes, II and III., 272. 

Grimm, 30. 42. 

Grimo (Abbot), 278. 

Grimoald (Pepin of Landen's son), 


Grimoald (Pepin of Heristal's son), 

232. 238. 
Gripho, 286. 295. 
Guizot, 16. 32. 

Gundobald, 82. 103. 139. 153. 
Guntram (King of Burgundy), 136. 

141. 144. 179. 486. 


Haistulph, 314. 323. 
Hebba, 90. 
Hercules, 19. 
Hermenbtrga, 182. 
Hermenfried, 108. 
Hermiones, 25. 
Hescham, 255. 
Hildebrand, 313. 
Hiltrude, 289. 
Horses (sacred), 29. 
Huns, 64. 129 


Tbn Jussuf, 264. 
Immunities of Church, 4-14. 
Ingenuus, 423. 
Ingo, 25. 

Irmino, 25. 
Isco, 25. 
Isis, 19. 

Jopil, 237. 

Joseph (Bishop of Le Mans), 476. 

Julian (Count), 255. 

Julian (Emperor), 55. 

Justinian, 1 16. 


Ketteler (Bp.), 498. 
Kohlenwald, 56. 
Kb'ppen, 21. 
Kyrton (Winfried of), 489. 


Lactantius, 500. 

Lanfried II., 296, 297. 

Laudericus, 147. 

Lech (River), 290. 

Lehuerou, 348. 

Leo (the Great), 452. 

Leo (the Isaurian), 270. 

Leodis, 428. 431. 

Leonisius (Bp.), 183. 

Leudegisil, 160. 

Leudes, 363. 

Lestines, or Leptines (Synod of), 300. 

Leti, 65. 

Libanius, 53. 

Liberty, 17. 

Litus, 425. 

Lucan (Poet), 16. 

Luden, 31. 36. 100. 

Ludi Francici, 51. 

Lupentius (Abbot), 392. 

Lupus, 130. 145. 


Magnentius (Emperor), 54. 
Magneric, 164. 
Maine, 71. 
Major- Domus, 214. 
Majorian, 61. 66. 
Mai berg Gloss, 420. 
Mallobaudes, 57. 
Mallus, Malloberg, 429. 
Mannire, 429. 
Mann us, 25. 
Marcomeres, 58. 
Marculf, 361. 
Mars, 19. 
Marsi, 43. 
Martin (St.), 79. 
Matresfamilia?, 27. 



Maurice (Emperor), 169. 
Maurontus, 264. 
Maximian (Emperor), 50. 
Maximus (Emperor), 57. 
Mayence, 49. 
Mecklenburg, 24. 
Medina, 251. 
Melciacum, 334. 
Mellitus (Abbot), 454. 
Mercury, 19. 23. 
Merida, 255. 
Merovseus, 62. 184. 
Meuse (R.), 56. 
Morganatic Marriage, 441. 
Morgengabe, 441. 
Moselle, 56. 
Mummolus, 154. 458. 
Mundium, 355. 
Municipia, 368. 
Munuz, 257. 
Mur (R.), 204. 

Naharvali, 1 9. 
Nanthildis, 203, 210. 
Napoleon, 5. 
Nazarius, 51. 
Nerthus (Hertha), 24. 
Neus, 58. 
Neustria, 100. 
Nicetius (Bp.), 487. 
Nonnius, 57. 
Norbert, 237. 
Normans, 27. 
Novella;, 421. 


Oath (of Boniface), 490. 
Obgrafiones, 431. 
Odhinn, 23. 
Odilo, 289. 297. 
Olio, 161. 
Omar, 257. 
Optatus, 294. 


Palladius, 485. 

Pampeluna, 257. 

Pappolus, 4 85. 

Parentilla (the), 425. 

Passau, 494. 

Paterfamilias, 29. 

Pavia, 329. 

Peiruce, 337. 

Pepin (of Heristal), 225. 231, 232. 288. 

Pepin (King), 286, et seq. 

Pepin (of Landen), 204. 223. 

Perigord, 338. 

Perigueux, 337. 

Peutingeria (Charta), 39. 

Pharamond, 60. 

Plectrude, 239. 

Poitiers, 87. 

Pomerania, 24. 

Pontyon, 318. 

Poppo (Duke), 263. 

Possessor (Romanus), 426. 

Pra;ceptum (of the king), 425 

Pretextatus (Bp.), 178. 

Priam, 58. 

Priests, 29. 

Principes, 356. 

Probus (Bp.), 226. 

Probus (Emp.), 49. 

Procopius, 174. 

Proculus, 49. 

Puer crinitus, 434. 

Puer Regis, 426. 

Quintinus, 57. 



Radegundis, 461. 

Raginfried, 241. 

Ragnachar, 91. 94. 

Rantgar, 238. 

Ratbod, 234. 248. 4S9. 

Uatcbis, 313. 330. 

Ratisbon, 494. 

Ravenna, 329. 

Referendarius, 214. 

Regaisus, 51. 

Reipus, de, 441. 

Remigius (Remi), St., 77. 480. 

Rigunthis, 177. 

Ripuarians, 48. 65. 70. 433. 

Roccolenus, 139. 

Rotdigang, 316. 

Rothard (Duke), 318. 

Rovergne, 87. 

Rugen (Island), 24. 

Sacebarone, 430. 
Sacrificial animals, 28. 
Sagittarius (Bp. ), 486. 
Saintes, 337. 
Salians, 43. 47. 70. 
Salic Laws, 60. 421. 
Saionius (Bp.), 486. 
Salvius (Bp.), 169. 
Salza (R.), 204. 
Salzburg, 494. 



Samo, 206. 

Saracens, 259. 

Saragossa, 119. 

Sarmatians, 8. 

Savigny, 361. 

Saxons, 7. 41. 46. 123. 

Scalda (the), 21. 

Scoraille, 337. 

Secularisation (the), 299. 

Sedulius (Poet), 166. 

Seigniorship (the), 388. 

Sem nones, 22. 

Servi, 355. 

Seville, 255. 

Sicambri, 44. 

Sicharhis, 206. 

Sigebert (Monk of St. Denis), 278. 

Sigebert (of Cologne), 85. 91. 

Sigebert I., 128. 137. 

Sigebert II., 185—189. 

Sigebert III., 209. 

Sigeric, 103. 

Sigewald, 150. 

Sigismund, 103. 

Silvanus, 54. 

Simony, 483. 

Simrock, 21. 30. 

Sithiu, 331. 

Slavonians, 199. 

Soldarii, 396. 

Soliman, 257. 

Sorbs, 204. 

Sortes Sanctorum, 456. 

Steuben II. (Pope;, 314. 

Stilicho, 58. 

Strasburg, 54. 

Suevi, 7. 19. 22. 59. 

Suitger, 296. 

Sunehild, 286. 

Sunno, 58. 

Susa (Valley of), 322. 

St. Jean de Maurienne, 312. 

Swanahild, 249. 

Syagrius, 66. 


Tacitus, 12 — 35. 

Tarik, 253. 254. 

Tassilo, 326. 

Teutoburgian Forest, 43. 446. 

Theobald, 291, 292. 

Theodatus, 1 15. 

Theodelinda, 189. 

Theuderic (K. of Ostrogoths), 84. 

Theoderic I., 99. 109—114. 

Theoderic II., 174. 

Theoderic III., 224. 236. 

Theodo (Count), 312. 

Theodorus, 488. 

Theodosius, 58. 

Theudebert, 110. 137. 181. 

Theudis, 113. 

Theudoald, 240. 

Thor, 24 

Thouars, 334. 

Tbunginus, 429. 

Thuringia, 67. 1 10. 

Tiberiacum, 330. 

Tiberius, 44. 

Tongres, 56. 

Tongrians, 74. 

Toul, 183. 

Tournai, 56. 

Toxandria, 55. 

Treves, 50. 57. 

Tribocci, 46. 

Tributarius Romanus, 426. 

Troyes, 66. 

Tubantes, 43. 

Tuisco, 25. 


Ubii, 46. 

Unstrut (R.), 67. 
Ursio (Duke), 144. 


Vangiones, 46. 

Varni, 109. 174. 

Varus, 446. 

Vassi, Vasalli, Vaseletus, Valet, 427. 

Veferonce, 106. 

Veleda, 26. 

Vienne, 83. 106. 

Vienne, ( R. ), 86. 

Villa, 424. 

Virgilius, 499. 

Visigoths, 70. 113. 

Vitisges, 117. 120. 

Vougle, 87. 

Vultetrada, 122. 


Wacho, 122. 

Waddo, 160. 

Waifar, 291. 312. 333, 334. 

Waitz, 360. 

Walhalla, 30. 

Waratto, 227. 

Warni, 109. 174. 

Wascones, 180. 

Wends, 204. 

Weregeld, 431. 

Werner ( Major- Domus), 187. 



Winfried (of Kyrton), 489. 
Wise Women, 26. 
Wogatisburc, 208. 
Wulfoald, 224. 
V/uotan, 23. 


Xeres de la Frontera, 254. 

Yssel, 48. 


Zachary (Pope), 294. 499. 
Zama, 255. 
Zio, 24. 
Ziilpich, 75. 


London : 

Printed by Spottiswoode & Co. 
New-street Square. 

Now published^ 



Shakespeare s Plays and Poems. 



In Four Volumes, Demy Octavo, price £i lis, 6d. 


The Same Text 

In One Volume, Royal Octavo, price iw. 

London : BICKERS & SON, i Leicester SauARt. 

The Publishers have much pleasure in announcing the publica- 
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As the value of these Editions will lie in the discrimination exer- 
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. -j ,, 

that the life-long devotion of Mr and Mrs Cowden Clarke to the 
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London, November 1863. 

Complete in Eight Vols., Demy Octavo, published at ^4, 4A, 

The Poetical and Prose Works of 

yohn Milt 071. 



Including a Facsimile of the Agreement for the Sale of Paradise Lost to Samuel 
Symmons for the sum of £10 ; together with a Pedigree of the Family of 
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*^* The Poet's own peculiar orthography and punctuation have been carefully 
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